Funding for the i360 viewing tower will be decided by members of Brighton and Hove City Council tomorrow (Thursday 6 March).
The council’s Policy and Resources Committee previously agreed to help with £14.8 million from the Public Works Loan Board towards a total project cost of £38.8 million.
It is now being asked to more than double that sum and lend £36.2 million out of a total of £46.2 million.
The Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) will chip in £4 million – up from the £3 million previously agreed.
The extra sums are needed after an unnamed private equity investor told the developer Marks Barfield – the architects behind the Millennium Wheel in London – that it could no longer proceed.
The minority Green administration backs the increased level of support while Labour is against. The Conservatives have indicated that they will vote with the Greens.
Criticism has come from, among others, Save Hove, the planning and conservation lobby group.
In an email it said: “Unless there is a significant public outcry this insanity is fait accompli.
“The decision is entirely in the gift of Policy and Resources and no other councillors or the public will have any say whatsoever in whether to lend this money to enable the i360 to be built.
“The Greens don’t seem to be concerned by the sustainability issues, the traffic implications if it were to succeed or the damage to surrounding residents’ air quality or amenity that this would inflict.
“Preston Street to benefit? How? The elevator and its cage will have activities in a glass building around it at ground level.
“Seafront restaurants abound near by. Why would Preston Street become a destination? Illogical.
“If the claimed visitor figures were to magically materialise, King’s Road traffic will be appalling and the lives of nearby residents made a misery.
“On-the-ground activity actually required for the i360 to even break even is so huge that the area would become like that of a major sporting event on a daily basis.
“The high-end credibility of the Metropole and Grand hotels would be toast.
“It is a confined space. Without public toilets too.
“(The council) declared in 2009 that a bit of metal clearance from the sea constituted commencement of development which prevented the planning consent from lapsing.
“This happened in the Conservative administration.
“The Tories in the city are split. They are organised into two jurisdictions: Pavilion and Kemptown.
“The Kemptown exec voted to oppose the loan but not the principle of building (the) i360 if privately funded.
“Kemptown MP Simon Kirby has gone public to oppose the loan.”
Save Hove said that only the Pavilion Conservatives backed the loan – and that all three Tories on the P&R Committee were Pavilion members.
It added: “They all believe that thousands of people are going to arrive and pay to go up that lift shaft for a look over the area and make the journey from as far away as north London to do so.
“The supporting visitor figure of 15 million catchment of necessity takes in North London.
“Sadly the council had no interest, I am informed, in asking the Brighton Wheel for its visitor numbers which would have been provided had there been a request from their landlord.
“They dared not ask is my contention because it would not support their biased agenda report to P&R.”
The council has been keen to emphasise that it would not be making a loan from council funds to the i360.
Instead it would act as an intermediary, borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board and lending on the money at a higher rate of interest. This would generate a profit.
The council said that the benefits of the project included
£985,000 a year for 25 years in a fixed risk premium to reflect the commercial nature of the loan
A £60,000 uplift in business rates and £70,000 in section 106 – or planning gain – payments
The council would receive a further £1.1m in one-off arrangement and commitment fees
A significant increase is expected of up to £300,000 a year in the current £1 million income a year from the Regency Square car park.
Increased income is also expected from council-owned seafront properties
The i360 would act as a catalyst for new businesses in the area, generating further increased business rate income in, for example, Preston Street
The council would receive half of any surplus if the attraction does better than expected to repay debt early
There is an option for early refinancing should the i360 be more successful than anticipated. The council would be compensated for the loss of margin on commercial terms and will benefit from an annual increase in the percentage of the ticket income from 1 per cent to 2.5 per cent which would continue for the life of the attraction
The council said in a report to the P&R Committee: “It is estimated that the i360 will attract 700,000 to 750,000 visitors in a stable year, including an increase of new visitors to the city of 165,000 to 305,000.
“The i360 will generate activity all year round, providing new impetus and support for retail, catering and hotels by attracting an estimated 27,000 to 49,000 additional overnight visitors to the city.
“Overnight visitors spend eight times more than day visitors and it is estimated this new additional spending alone will create a potential 52 new jobs.
“The overall job impact of regeneration proposals can depend upon a number of variables, but has been calculated as delivering from 169 full-time equivalent jobs (excluding jobs created by additional tourism income) to a maximum of 440 jobs, if jobs created by wider additional tourism spend (of between £13.9 million to £25.4 million per annum) are included.”
The i360 has also promised discounts for local residents, except in the peak season, and free entry for Brighton and Hove state schools to ensure that every child can visit the attraction at least once.
Free tickets will also be given to local charities and community groups and a percentage of the revenues will go to the West Pier Trust for heritage works.
The meeting is due to start at 4pm tomorrow at Hove Town Hall.