i360 PROPOSAL – Q & A WITH GLYNN JONES, CHAIR OF THE WEST PIER TRUST
Why the i360?
As owners of the site of the old West Pier, we have been striving for the last ten years to find a suitable replacement. The i360 is a 21st century version of the Victorian pier, representing the best in design and innovation which will capture the imagination of the city. It is also a project ready to start – it has planning permission, it has contractors ready to begin and if the council approves the funding proposal it can start within a couple of months. Within two years Brighton can have a world class visitor attraction, not only at no cost to the public but actively contributing £1m a year to the city.
One of our responsibilities as the Trust, is to promote high standards of architecture and to make our contribution to this part of the seafront which is in our ownership. i360 will be iconic and beautiful and provide an immediate new landmark for Brighton. It will directly regenerate this part of the seafront, build on the Council’s work in restoring the arches either side of the site and bring income and jobs to surrounding areas such as Preston Street. It will provide another jewel in the “string of pearls” of attractions on the seafront and will also give the wider message that the city is once again reinventing itself and is open for business.
The i360 is the only show in town so far as the West Pier Trust is concerned. No other proposal we have seen has matched our and the city’s aspirations for the seafront.It received almost universal support from the public when the planning application was submitted and the City Council Planning Committee approved the detailed proposals unanimously. It is good for the site of the West Pier, it is good for the seafront and it is good for the city.
What will the West Pier Trust get out of the i360?
As landowner, the Trust will get an income from the operation of i360. In the short term we will use this to fund our very successful educational work promoting the heritage of the West Pier which, it should be remembered, was the only Grade 1 listed pier in the country. Together with the Fishing Museum, we do a lot of work with primary schools where children learn about the history of the pier and the seafront. The i360 itself will contribute to this by reusing some of the kiosks, railings and other artefacts from the original pier in the new building.
When i360 is built, we want to reconstruct one of the iconic 1866 octagonal pier kiosks as a Heritage Centre and it would be good to do this to mark the 150th anniversary in 2016 of the building of the original pier.
We also have responsibilities to remove the wreckage of the old pier, most of which is beneath the sea and will be costly to get out. Additionally the remains of the pier which are in view – the “sea island” – is steadily deteriorating and has no long term future. We have to monitor its condition and safety.
In the longer term, the i360 funding will allow us to explore whether there is interest in developing a new pier. There is a lot of interest in what experiences a contemporary pier could provide. It would be in the spirit of the original pier to see if we could create something as special as the Victorians did.
What does the City get from the i360?
By using funding from the Public Sector Loans Board, the Council will be able to fully fund the i360 and receive back from the developers almost £1 million a year in interest which it can then decide to re-invest in other much needed infrastructure projects such as major repairs to the city’s shop window, the seafront. This model of funding which is supported by Government and increasingly used by other cities to fund infrastructure projects, would also generate additional income for Brighton and Hove from a percentage of ticket sales which it could then re-invest in community projects. This funding mechanism does not divert money away from much needed Council services as no council tax is involved
What if i360 doesn’t happen?
If the council funding does not get approval the eyesore of the root end of the pier will continue to deteriorate and may in time require the footway above to be closed because of the danger that the arches below will collapse. The Trust simply does not have the funds to maintain the status quo let alone do the strengthening works needed.
Again if the scheme does not go ahead it would be the second major scheme to have gained planning permission for the site but not to proceed. Any new proposal would have to start again from scratch and it would be likely to be five to ten years before completion. In the meantime, the Trust would have little or no income and would find it very difficult to continue its educational and heritage work, let alone care for the remains of the old pier.
If the scheme does not proceed, the City Council will lose the opportunity of receiving £1million a year income which it could then use to fund much needed major repairs to other parts of the sea front.
Most importantly, a terrific opportunity for a great attraction and a big leap forward for the image of Brighton and Hove will have been lost.