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New attraction for Brighton as i360 given the go-ahead
The nation's tallest viewing tower could be open to the public in less than two years.
The viewing tower could open in April 2014 following unanimous support for the tourist attraction from Brighton and Hove City Council's cabinet members last night.
The architects behind the “tourist magnet” said that the council's approval has “unlocked” the project add that they hope to start construction by the end of the financial year next April.
Architect David Marks who has led the development said: “Its scale and design will help raise the profile of Brighton and Hove and strengthen its international profile.”
Last night (May 10) the council's cabinet agreed to a £14 million loan to kickstart work on the £35million development.
This will act as an engine room for regenerationBill Randall, Brighton and Hove City Council leader
Coast to Capital LEP will spend £3million on the project and the remaining funds will be sought through bank finance.
Addressing cabinet members' concerns about the cost he said that the percentage of debt required was under 50%.
He added that the business is expected to earn two and a half times more income than is needed to cover the interest and loan repayments to the council.
“If anyone stands to lose money it will firstly be us and our investors,” said Mr Marks.
“But obviously neither we nor they are going into this intending to lose any money.”
The i360 expected to create at least 154 full time jobs plus 444 more posts during the construction of the tower.
Eleanor Harris, who will be responsible for operating the i360 when it opens said: “The visitor experience on the Brighton i360 will be even better than the London Eye.
“The giant pod is incredibly spacious and will hold around 200 people compared to just 25 on the London Eye meaning that visitors can walk around and it can accommodate large groups, so for example, school groups can visit together without needing to get split up unlike on the London Eye.
“It also makes the pod an ideal venue for parties, which we think will be especially important in attracting the conference visitors to Brighton. It also will mean we can run a calendar of special events on the i360 such as graduation parties, or music, comedy and other performances during Brighton Festival and Pride.
“We have also designed top notch visitor facilities in terms of the beach-side restaurant, a shop, exhibition about the West Pier and functions rooms - all things we lacked at the London Eye, which will transform the seafront.”
In the first year it is hoped 800,000 visitors with visit it the tower, then between 700,000 and 750,000 a year after that.
Speaking in his final cabinet meeting as council leader, Bill Randall said: “This will act as an engine room for regeneration.
“You will have seen Jason Kitcat's suggestion of West Laine area in The Argus, whatever we do we need to redevelop the area.”
Labour and Co-op group leader Councillor Gill Mitchell said “I don't think that the regeneration of the area is in any doubt. That area of the city needs an anchor attraction. "
But she added that she was concerned by council reports suggesting that it would boost the income of the Regency Square car park.
“you can't have it both ways. If you want to see this as a success then you are going to have to look at parking charges and consider park and ride.”
She also raised concerns about visitor numbers.
Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “Fingers crossed this will kick start the redevelopment of the West Pier itself.”