i360

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Artwork of the planned tower.

The i360 is an 183-metre (600 ft) observation tower being constructed on the seafront of Brighton, near to the West Pier.[1] The 183m tall Brighton i360 is designed, engineered, manufactured and promoted by the team responsible for the London Eye. Dutch steelwork specialist Hollandia has prefabricated the tapering steel sections of the tower, known by the team as cans.

It is estimated[by whom?] that the i360 will generate more than 440 permanent jobs, 169 at the attraction, plus additional jobs from the spin off benefits to other businesses in the city. The projected cost of the tower is £46 million, with £36 million being funded the form of a loan from Brighton and Hove city council. In 2014, some local residents launched a petition to oppose the loan.

The owners of the site, The West Pier Trust, hope that a successful i360 will lead to the rebuilding of the historic West Pier.[2]

Design and construction[edit]

The tower was designed by architects Marks Barfield (the husband and wife team David Marks and Julia Barfield), who also designed the London Eye, the most visited paid-for attraction in the United Kingdom. To be built at the shore end of the wrecked West Pier, the i360 will have a 183 m (600 ft) high needle tower, with an ascending and descending circular viewing platform with a capacity for 200 people.

Plans were submitted in June 2006 and were approved by Brighton and Hove City Council later that year with construction projected to start in 2007. Following delays of around fifteen months the off-site construction of the sections of the tower began in 2008 in the Netherlands, and work on reconstructing the arches beneath and East of the pier to allow the tower construction began in November 2012. Work on the tower itself began in May 2014, with the attraction being scheduled to open in 2016.[3]

When complete it would be Britain's highest observation tower, with views along the coast, across the South Downs and across the English Channel. The i360 pod is expected to include a bar and entertainment system, and plans are for the beach-side visitor centre to include dining, retail and exhibition space.[citation needed] Construction is intended to include a heritage centre to be built on the seafront close to the ruins of the West Pier, which was last open for business in 1975.[citation needed]

David Marks has described the inspiration for the i360 as an attempt to replicate the "incredible experience" of the London Eye, with the intention "to create a similar sort of visitor experience with a view that slowly unfolds as you gradually ascend".[citation needed] British Heritage felt that the 2006 plan would "provide an outstanding feature on the seafront, and a worthy companion to any successor to the West Pier".[4] In a statement, the West Pier Trust hoped that the project would "regenerate a key blighted city site and send out a loud message that Brighton is open for business".[3]

Finance[edit]

As of March 2014, the project is expected to cost £46 million.[5] Brighton and Hove Council were initially intending to support the build with £14.8 million from the Public Works Loan Board; this loan was later raised to £36.2 million after an unnamed private equity investor told the architects it could no longer proceed[5] and withdrew its planned £15 million contribution in 2012. Architect Marks Barfield is expected to contribute £6 million to the cost of the project.[3]

On 6 March 2014 a Special Policy & Resources Committee was convened at which Brighton & Hove City Council agreed to lend £36.2 million, to more than replace the lost investment capital and to again borrow from the Public Works Loan Board to effect the new bailout.[6] The Coast to Capital LEP loan of £3 million was raised to £4 million. The West Pier Trust have suggested the project "will cost the taxpayer nothing",[3] but some residents are concerned that any repayment risk would be borne by the residents of Brighton & Hove.[citation needed] The council have stated that if the loan were not repaid, they would have the option to take over the attraction, find another operator or sell it.[7]

Some local residents have campaigned against the loan and have raised petitions. The "saveHOVE" petition to the Public Works Loan Board has requested that the public money not be made available to the city council, saying to a local paper "If private financial backers are not achievable from anywhere in the world, why should Brighton and Hove residents be expected to assume the risk?"[8] Within a few days the petition had 407 signatures.[8] By April 14, the petition had exceeded 1000 signatures.[9]

Jason Kitcat, leader of Brighton & Hove City Council has described the i360 as "the cornerstone to funding the regeneration of Brighton’s seafront" and expects it to attract more than 700,000 additional tourists and up to £25 million revenue annually, with annual interest payments of over £1million, as well as 1% of ticket sales in perpetuity.[citation needed]

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