It is just one year since financial close and the i360’s tower build is well underway. Funds have also started to be channelled back into the city, with more than £850,000 paid so far.
Eleanor Harris, chief executive of Brighton i360, provides an update:
Today marks the one year anniversary of the historic moment when we reached ‘financial close’ for the Brighton i360. This day a year ago, we signed over 100 contracts with our funders and construction partners, and the i360 project formally started and I officially took on the role of chief executive.
You can be forgiven if you have failed to notice the fact that we have been busily building the i360 for the past year, as our construction site has been relatively unobtrusive from the road apart from some colourful hoardings. Behind these, we have been ‘in the ground’ creating our foundations; and off site, we have been prefabricating the steel tower and glass pod.
The first indicator of all our hard work was the arrival of the barge from Holland which brought six cans and our jacking tower. Today, you cannot fail to notice the i360 tower as it is now literally ‘out of the ground’. Within four days we have installed four of the 17 steel cans and the tower is already 28 metres high. It is amazing to imagine that by September, we will have completed building the 162 metre high tower.
It is exciting to see the city literally transforming before our eyes – and indeed from the Portakabin where we are based my team gets an amazing view of all the action from our office window.
The i360 will be a beautiful piece of world-class architecture and will create a new contemporary icon for the city to complement our 19th Century icons from the past. Not since our Victorian forefathers built the two piers have we had a new major attraction for the city. Brighton and Hove sprang up from the wealth generated tourism and today tourism pumps £1billion into the economy and the i360 is expected to generate an extra £25million a year for the city.
When I’m out and about talking to members of the community, it is apparent that a few people still have a few misconceptions about our funding, so it would be timely to clear a couple of points up on our financial close anniversary.
Contrary to popular mythology, no council tax has been used to fund the i360. Brighton and Hove City Council has acted as middle man borrowing £36million from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB). This entire loan will be repaid to the Council by the i360 with interest. The Council has borrowed this money at a very low interest rate and is lending it to the i360 at a commercial rate. The Council is set to earn over £1million a year from this arrangement. So instead of this profit flowing back into the pockets of an investment bank, they will remain in the city and be reinvested back into Brighton and Hove.
The money the Council makes has been earmarked to go to the seafront – the city’s shop window. It requires a huge investment to prop up the crumbling arches, and it is wonderful to see the regeneration in action already next to our site. I look forward to seeing this spreading along the seafront over the forthcoming years.
Another popular misconception is that the money which has been loaned to the i360 could have been spent on something else such as children’s services, roads, restoring the seafront or building a new pier. This could not be further from the truth. PWLB funding can only be used for projects where there is sufficient income generated to repay the loan. None of these – whilst worthy uses of public funds – can be funded via a PWLB loan. You can read more about our funding in a previous blog.
I am really pleased to announce on our anniversary that this money has already begun flowing to the city and we have already paid the Council more than £850,000. This has included £773,783 in utilisation, arrangement and PWLB administration fees, plus a Section 106 fee of £77,000 to fund transport improvements, bringing the total to £850,703.
We have also been delivering on a number of the other promises to create an ethical and sustainable business that will deliver real benefits to the residents.
This week we have announced a discount resident scheme offering half price entry to local residents as well as free places to children attending a state school in Brighton and Hove. We will be creating curriculum material next year in the subjects of science, maths, design and technology for teachers to take this learning out of the classroom, so we can inspire the next generation of engineers and architects.
An independent economic study estimated that the i360 will generate 440 new jobs in the city. We have begun hiring our team and creating jobs not only in construction but also in our office where we are literally building the business from the ground up. We have signed up to the Brighton & Hove Living Wage campaign and are an equal opportunities employer. We will be creating apprenticeships and training opportunities once we open, and hope to contribute positively to tackling youth unemployment.
We have proudly been putting out all of our tenders out locally where possible, hiring companies from Sussex with a growing army of local companies working with us. If you would like to work with us, please do get in touch. Most recently this has included Brighton-based Tilt who have created our wonderful new web site, and Brighton-based the Ideas Factory who created our promotional film, which was a wonderful collaboration with many tourism partners in the city.
We have been giving back by fundraising for local charities including supporting Sussex Beacon with a team entering next year’s half marathon; a group participating in Paddle Around the Pier; and my own personal efforts fundraising for Rockinghorse by dancing in the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ style ball tomorrow night.
We work very closely with the West Pier Trust and it has been wonderful to see the images of all the work that has been taking place to restore the original 1866 toll booths. These will return as a pair at the i360, as our ticket office and team rooms; reunited for the first time since the 1970s. The trust will earn an income from the i360 and are in the process of consulting on a future pier.
The next year will be even more exciting, and by this time next year, we expect to be opening our doors to the first members of the public for their first ride. I cannot wait to welcome our first guests for a voyage to the skies.