Promising i360 Funding News

Below is press statement issued by Brighton & Hove Council yesterday outlining promising news on i360 funding

£14m council loan could restart viewing tower plan

Brighton’s planned tourism magnet, the 175-metre i360 viewing tower, could be back on track thanks to a government grant and a council loan totalling £17m.

The new Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership has just agreed a £3m   loan to the project from its Growing Places Fund.  However having so far raised £18m of the required £35m, the tower’s developers Marks Barfield still need a further £14m.

Now Brighton & Hove City Council is proposing stepping in to kickstart the scheme. The plan would be for the council to act as a bank, borrowing funding from external sources and lending £14m to the developers in return for certain cast-iron guarantees on repayment.

The council’s cabinet on May 10 is expected to agree in principle to look into the option.  If it is judged viable, a final decision would be made in
July.  If agreed, the project could be re-started within two or three months and completed in two years.

Officials believe the risks will be relatively low while benefits could be huge.  A completed tower would be expected to attract up to 800,000 visitors a year, spending upwards of £5m in the city and encouraging up to 18,000 more people to stay overnight.

It would create between 154 and 440 jobs and boost businesses in the area, including nearby Preston Street.

Building the tower would also enable completion of seafront regeneration works, including refurbishing and letting adjacent derelict seafront arches and completing the landscaping to the east and west of the site.

Other financial benefits for taxpayers include the council receiving one per cent of ticket revenues plus interest on the loan, set to be repaid over eleven years. Developers would repay the loan from profits made on the attraction.  Independent economists AECOM have said the i360 is likely to earn five times more money than is needed to repay the loan, making it low-risk for the council.  Even lowest-possible visitor projections enable safe repayment of the loan, they advise.

Cabinet councillor for culture Geoffrey Bowden said:  “At this stage we’re looking into the option rather than promising to pursue it.  This would be a business and regeneration proposal by the council, not an act of charity.

“Under the law we can only propose this because the project is at such an advanced stage and the developers already
have 50 per cent of their funding in place.  We cannot use such funding for every type of project we may wish to see started.

“This project being at a standstill is costing the city at least £5m a year, blocking completion of the seafront regeneration and preventing lots of other spin-off business taking place nearby.

“By making a loan, we end those problems, boost public coffers by renting out nearby seafront arches, collect more in business rates, radically smarten the seafront and create hundreds of jobs.”

Officials say that in the unlikely event of a default on the loan, the council could take over the site, the business or its assets.

A report on the proposed loan goes to cabinet on May 10 and can be seen here on the council website.