As the plans to regenerate Eastbourne’s town centre and surrounding facilities are now well underway, Sussex Business Times explores the benefits this redevelopment will have on the coastal town, speaking to some of its residents and organisation representatives along the way

Eastbourne and Brighton are very different in size, which of course means Brighton has the capacity to showcase some of the South East’s most loved restaurants, bars and attractions – from the seafront’s Sea Life Centre to the Royal Pavillion’s ice skating rink. Brighton has always been seen to sit ahead of Eastbourne in every sense of the word, but with the town’s upcoming regeneration and introduction of new shops and dining venues, it’s definitely creeping up on the success of it’s sister town. Back in 2013, Eastbourne was named as the fourth best place to live by the sea in the UK, beating Brighton into ninth. The poll revealed Broadstairs in Kent to be the best seaside home, followed by Dartmouth in Devon and Filey in North Yorkshire, whilst Brighton was five places back with Fowey, Cornwall, Topsham, Devon, Whitby, Yorkshire and Weymouth in Dorset, between the two Sussex entries.

While talks of Eastbourne’s redevelopment have been heard for quite a while, we’re fast approaching the time of completion as we step further into 2017. For those who don’t know, a first-rate international standard conference facility, beautifully restored theatres and a major upgrade of world-class tennis facilities at Devonshire Park will combine with Eastbourne’s ‘jewel in the crown’ – a fantastic new shopping centre extension – to make the town the “go-to” venue for shopping, tourism and business.

Eastbourne & District Chamber of Commerce President, Tim Cobb said that the town was experiencing nothing short of a tourism and retail revolution that would see the complete regeneration of the town. “Eastbourne has always punched above its weight to compete for the tourism and retail pound, but now, there is a regeneration revolution that is sweeping through the town.”

Work on the much-anticipated £85 million Eastbourne Arndale extension is well underway, with demolition of shops in Terminus Road now complete and pile-drivers in action to prepare for the foundations. The new 170,000 sq ft scheme will bring an additional 22 new retail units, around 300 extra car parking spaces, seven restaurants and a nine-screen cinema to Eastbourne.

“National retailers have not always seen the benefits of trading in the town, but now things are changing fast,” Tim said. “Shoppers will soon be seeing the likes of Fat Face, Carluccio’s, Nando’s and Wagamama opening up in the town. This is jaw-dropping news and will not only encourage Eastbourne residents to shop local, it will entice visitors from our neighbouring towns and cities.”

David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council also commented in the midst of the town’s restoration: “This Arndale extension is fantastic news for the future of our town.  The development of our town centre has been a long held ambition. We will be seeing new shops, restaurants and a multiplex cinema.  When linked to the Devonshire Park project and business park at Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne is undergoing a transformation unparalleled in decades.”

Preparation work began a while back to provide an additional 300 car parking spaces to the Eastbourne Arndale Centre multi story car park. The two-storey extension to the car park is being built to cope with the increased traffic to the town once the £85 million extension to the shopping centre is completed. The additional spaces will help to ease the current traffic issues in adjacent streets caused by queuing into, and out of, the Centre car park at peak times. Level 6 of the car park, which provides 155 spaces, has been closed to allow work to begin. Next month, level 5 will also close but the rest of the car park will stay open for business as usual. Work on the car park extension will be finished in September 2018.

It was also announced late last month that Eastbourne Borough Council has chosen Bistrot Pierre to operate the new Wish Tower restaurant. Bistrot Pierre offers Anglo-French dishes prepared every day using ingredients from local suppliers and artisan French producers.  Open seven days-a-week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu in Eastbourne will include classic bistrot favourites such as steaks-frites, boeuf bourguignon, moules marinière and crème brûlée, along with dishes using fresh fish sourced from local fishermen.

Councillor David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: “It is great news that Bistrot Pierre will bring their Parisien dining experience to Eastbourne. The iconic Wish Tower location for Bistrot Pierre will rival any other seaside restaurant in the UK for superb food and stunning panoramic views of the coastline.”

“I am also delighted that following a special request by the council, the team at Bistrot Pierre has created a fish menu in recognition of our home by the sea.”

With construction for this new addition to the Sunshine Coact scheduled to begin early next year, the new Bistrot Pierre restaurant is anticipated to open in spring 2019.

The Arndale Centre’s second multi-story car park in nearby Junction Road, has extended its opening hours to include Sunday while work is being carried out.

Work on the 170,000 sq ft extension, being funded by Arndale Centre owners Legal & General, is being carried out by construction group Kier, which began work on site in January. Demolition work is ongoing while the installation of pilings will begin soon and is expected to take around six weeks. The extension will bring an additional 22 retail units, seven restaurants and a nine-screen cinema to Eastbourne. Two time-lapse cameras are recording the development every step of the way as it slowly changes the landscape of the town centre.

Neil Crawford, Head of Retail & Leisure Development for LGIM Real Assets, said: “It is very positive that we have reached the next stage of the development and can now start preparation work on the car park extension which will provide much needed additional parking for the centre. We are doing everything possible to keep disruption to a minimum and thank everyone for their patience and understanding while this essential work takes place.”

Demolition Man Terry Spires and his colleagues have become something of a tourist attraction in recent months. The team from Best Demolition are in action six days a week, dismantling a row of empty shops near Eastbourne railway station to make way for the Arndale shopping centre extension. Shoppers, residents and tourists are finding perfect viewing spots in Ashford Road to witness the diggers in action.

Demolition finished at the end of July, and now the area will be flattened and piling work will begin to lay the foundations for the 170,000 sq ft extension that will house an additional 22 new retail units, seven restaurants and a nine-screen cinema.

For Terry and the team, it’s all in a day’s work. “I’ve operated diggers of all shapes and sizes for the last 32 years. I’ve worked on sewage sites, I’ve shifted pebbles on beaches, and I’ve helped build a terminal at Gatwick Airport,” he said.

“For the work on the Arndale Centre, I’m operating one of the largest diggers, with a 28m arm,” Terry continued. “It has a selector grab and 360 degree controls. In short, this makes it possible to pick up the smallest of items and delicately extract it from the demolition site.

The demolition work is being managed by Kier Construction and Senior Project Manager, Kevin Watts said work was progressing at a good pace and praised the various teams involved: “The guys from Best Demolition are doing a great job,” Kevin said. “Everybody works as a team and we are all geared towards the day when demolition is completed and we move onto the building phase.”

Eastbourne Borough Council is also in the midst of creating a first class sporting, cultural and conferencing destination, known as Devonshire Quarter, that will offer excellent facilities for both residents and visitors. The £44million investment incorporates major improvements to the international tennis centre, the creation of a topflight new conference venue, the restoration of the nationally-important, listed buildings of the Congress Theatre, Winter Garden and Devonshire Park Theatre and dramatic public realm enhancements.

A new, world class players’ village recently opened at Devonshire Park ahead of the Aegon International to provide topflight facilities for women’s and men’s tennis. Eastbourne Borough Council and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) have jointly funded the impressive glass-fronted two storey building, which was designed by Levitt Bernstein and constructed by contractor Kier.

“This is a fantastic new facility befitting the prestige of the Aegon International and we look forward to the players enjoying all its various benefits next week,” said Councillor David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council. “The development marks a major part of our work with the LTA to improve the tennis offer here, alongside the £44million transformation underway to put Devonshire Quarter on the map as a first-rate international sporting, cultural and conference destination.”

The players’ village incorporates player changing rooms, fitness and physio suites, player lounges and medical facilities, while other tennis improvements under the Devonshire Quarter scheme include a new show court, new practice courts and increased space around outside match courts allowing players to hit the ball harder and from further off the court when returning serve and during rallies. These enhancements are underpinned by the recent installation of a modern irrigation system that ensures Eastbourne’s famous grass courts remain in peak condition throughout the year.

Meanwhile, work has begun on the foundations for a new Welcome Building, which is being created to establish Devonshire Quarter as a premier conference destination. This will provide conference halls, break out and hospitality areas, a cafe with views across the lawns and a fully accessible entrance to the Congress Theatre and Winter Garden, including lifts to every floor.

At the Congress Theatre, work will reinstate and enhance the stylish interior that was present when it opened in 1963 and replace the old heating and air conditioning systems. Additionally, the historic character of the 1875-built Winter Garden will be enhanced by the restoration of original features at the Grade II listed building; and both internal and external refurbishments have been completed at the Devonshire Park Theatre, one of the best examples of small Victorian theatre in the country. It really is all going on in Eastbourne!

In addition to all of these improvements to be made to Eastbourne, some surrounding areas will also be getting a revamp – Highways England has now committed to improve the A27. The A27 is the only major road along the south coast, linking Brighton, Worthing, Chichester, Portsmouth, Southampton, and beyond, yet has earned the title of one of the most unreliable and troublesome roads in the South East. Highways England have launched four package schemes as a means of reducing congestion on the A27, all of which aim to improve traffic flow, journey times, safety and accessibility, boost local economic growth and minimise the impact on the environment.

While there is only a limited amount that can be said on this matter at this moment in time, what we do know is that the board is currently consulting on proposals to improve the A27 Junctions at Worthing and Lancing. This improvement scheme aims to expand the capacity of the road and junctions along the stretch of single carriageway in Worthing and the narrow dual carriageway in Lancing.

Equally, the A27 to the East of Lewes suffers from congestion due to the narrow carriageway and low capacity at junctions. There are limited overtaking opportunities, meaning that traffic regularly queues behind cyclists and other slow moving vehicles. This area of the A27 is another target for Highways England’s scheme to improve the road, and while consultations and proposed options and preferred routes are still taking place, the road is set to be open to traffic in 2022. Meanwhile, similar issues are arising at the Arundel section of the A27 and as a result, it also suffers from congestion, particularly junctions at Crossbush, The Causeway and Ford Road. Its scheme aims to reduce congestion through Arundel by means of a new dual carriageway bypass and plans for work to start in April 2020 have been put in place.

The Chichester bypass area of the A27 in particular has an incredibly poor safety record, being among the worst 10% of UK roads for casualties. However, due to there being no agreed alternative route, funding for these improvements has now been retracted. Whether this will cause problems for the other areas affected by these schemes, we don’t know and as consultations and proposals continue, it’s important that Sussex businesses ensure they’re kept in the loop.

While the majority of the developments mentioned here promise to improve matters in this area of Sussex – such as the Arndale Centre’s regeneration in particular – it’s clear to see that some still raise questions and concerns as to whether or not the county will benefit. What will come of Eastbourne and its surrounding areas once these huge changes have been made, we don’t know, but we’re definitely excited to find out!