Gambling on the i360 Tower

Over £42 million of public money will be risked by the City Council and Local Enterprise Partnership on a scheme likely to be given the green (and blue) lights by councillors. Only the Labour group has indicated its opposition. The arguments in support are less than convincing to many of us. The “Business Review” by the consultants D&J International Consulting” is on the Council’s website in a ‘redacted’ version. Immediately the “R” word conjures up memories of politicians trying to hide something! Not a good start then; but one’s confidence is further undermined when the consultants refer to a pod which rises to 140 meters whilst the City Council’s website announces a tower of 175 meters. Having read the Council’s description, visitors might well feel short changed when the pod they are in, stops 35 meters short of the top!

The same report suggests that the i360 will receive up to 820,000 paying visitors in its first year of operation; that is about two and a half times as many as the Royal Pavilion has currently. Surprisingly little is said by the consultants about the view that might be enjoyed from 140/175 meters aloft. The West Pier is described as being “in a state of disrepair”. Well, if that is a state of disrepair, local residents might shudder to think what a ruin looks like.

The view from aloft will certainly include much of the City which actually is in disrepair: the promenade, the pavements, the communal bins, buildings such as Anston House perhaps, and many of those houses which line the Old Steine. It is claimed that the i360 will bring money into the City which will help regenerate it; but if it does not, the City will be lumbered with 850 tonnes of steel pole and a sky high bill to dismantle it. It cannot be dismantled and re-erected elsewhere like the Brighton Wheel and, unlike the West Pier, such a structure could not simply be left to collapse. The life span is estimated to be “at least fifty years” but the loans are not expected to be paid back for some twenty seven years – a period of about half its life span. The developer and architects kept telling the Council for years they had raised £15 million from private investors, whose backing has been revealed now as “backing out” rather than backing.

Only time will tell, of course; but if it does fail, it will be a 175 meter monument to failure for everyone to see (from the ground).

Jim Gowans

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