i360 set to go ahead next week after Brighton and Hove Tories join Greens to offer £36m loan (From The Argus)
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i360 set to go ahead next week after Brighton and Hove Tories join Greens to offer £36m loan
The i360 tower is set to receive the financial backing it needs to get off the ground after Brighton and Hove Conservative councillors confirmed they would join the Greens in supporting the ambitious project.
After months of speculation surrounding the plan the Conservative group on Brighton and Hove City Council’s policy and resource committee – who will have the final say on the project next week – confirmed they would now support it with a £36 million loan.
With the Green party in favour of the project and Labour’s members standing firmly against it, all eyes had been on the Tory contingent to see which way they would go.
And following a closed door meeting, group leader Geoffrey Theobald confirmed what his party’s intention will be.
“This hasn’t been an easy decision and we have given it very careful consideration over a number of weeks but in the end we believe that it will be in the long-term interests of the city to take this bold step,” he said.
“If we don’t grasp the nettle now, the seafront which is our shop window, will suffer a slow and inevitable decline for decades to come.”
He added: “We believe that the i360 project will bring huge benefits to the city in terms of increased visitor numbers, job creation and regeneration of a run-down and underused section of the seafront.
"It will give the message loud and clear to other potential investors that Brighton & Hove is well and truly open for business and this should encourage other developments and boost trade in the vicinity.”
Planning permission for the 464ft tower has already been granted and if the decision now goes ahead as expected the structure could be completed as early as next year.
Final details of the deal are expected to be introduced next week.
As well as the £36 million loan from the council, which will be funded with central government money, the developers have also secured a £3 million loan from Coast to Capital, the area’s Government-funded local enterprise partnership.
Green Party council leader Jason Kitcat welcomed this latest development but said there was still a long way to go.
He said: “My position at the moment is that I think the i360 is a fantastic project. We’re very lucky to have a world class team who developed the London Eye wanted to make their next attraction here in Brighton & Hove.
“I’m pleased to hear the Conservatives will be supporting it.”
But Labour group leader Warren Morgan said the other two parties were set to condemn taxpayers to years of debt.
He told The Argus: “In Thursday's council tax debate the Conservatives will again trot out their lines about ‘the mess Labour left us in’ and about ‘being responsible with taxpayers money’.
"Yet next week they will be committing two generations of council taxpayers to nearly forty million pounds of debt on a project that no private investor will support.
“Even their own local MP says the project is a black hole.”