The decision was taken by the council’s Policy and Resources Committee in a meeting at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Thursday 6 March).
Opposition Conservative group leader Councillor Geoffrey Theobald made a passionate speech in support.
He said: “As a group we have looked into this issue more closely than probably any other issue that has come before the council.
“This is an incredibly important decision for the whole city.
“Going back over the last 25 years or so, there have been a whole lot of projects that have never happened for one reason or another.
“Brighton and Hove has gained a very poor reputation among developers.
“Looking at this part of the seafront, there is no doubt that it is run down. There is very little to attract people here apart from a morbid fascination with looking at the collapsing West Pier.
“If we vote today with Councillor Morgan – Councillor No – then we will be condemning the seafront here to many more years of stagnation.
“We would be guilty of leaving our shop window tarnished.
“This is a scheme that is ready to go. It has planning permission and the various other permissions it needs.
“The i360 team have spent an awful lot of their own time and money gaining these permissions.
“It would be completed in two years from now.
“Are we really going to turn all this down today when there is no alternative, no plan B? To do so would be the height of irresponsibility.
“Do we really want Brighton and Hove, a genuine city by the sea, to slip back as some other formerly successful seaside resorts have done?
“Brighton and Hove is one of, if not the, largest seaside resorts in terms of international visitors. It is probably the prime seaside conference resort.
“There was a very interesting programme on Tuesday night with Evan Davies on the BBC talking about how the London economy is rapidly outstripping and pulling away from the rest of the country.
“The second part of the programme is about what other cities can do to catch up.
“The Cities Minister is actively encouraging cities to invest in their own economic growth.
“Places like Bristol, Sheffield and Leeds are all doing this – this is what the Public Works Loans Board is for. This is why the Government has set up City Deals and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
“If we don’t emulate these other cities, Brighton and Hove will get left behind.
“The benefits of building the i360 are huge and are clearly laid out in the report and I find it staggering that the Labour group is going to vote against all those benefits.
“Up to 440 new jobs, up to 305,000 new visitors to the city, up to 49,000 additional overnight stays in the city, up to £25 million in increased tourist revenue. I believe that it would also attract more conferences to the city.
“In short, a massive boost to the local economy and a wholesale regeneration of this part of the seafront.
“And that is not to mention all the financial benefits to the council from entering this arrangement.
“Having studied the business plan carefully, I am as certain as one can be that the i360 will be profitable and that council taxpayers will, therefore, benefit.
“Last week at budget council, Councillor Morgan referred to two visionary Labour Party leaders of days gone by – Lord Cohen and Sir Herbert Carden.
“I am very confident of the way that they and Denis Hobden – another leading Labour politician – would have voted. It would not have been to vote ‘No’.”
Councillor Morgan said after the meeting: “We have been clear in the Labour group that we were not prepared to go beyond the loan approved in 2012 as part of a public/private partnership to fund the i360, so we voted against the £38 million, 27-year taxpayer-backed loan today.
“However, it has been approved and we now will do everything we can to support the project, ensure it delivers a return on this investment and not saddle the residents of this city with a huge debt for years to come.”
Council leader Jason Kitcat said after the meeting: “I’m delighted we’ve brokered an agreement for an exciting job-creating tourist attraction for the city without calling on local budgets as well as ensuring there are safeguards for workers’ pay and the tower being powered by green energy.
“Brighton and Hove needs to keep reinventing itself to continue our upwards trend in visitor numbers and avoid the decline other seaside towns have suffered.
“This tower is our best opportunity to expand our tourist industry and regenerate our seafront.
“The project will provide a new source of income to help shore up vital frontline services as well as give a run-down area a much-needed facelift.”
“The project is supported by businesses, residents and the trade unions.
“This is a unique opportunity to support a world-class landmark for our city and, all being well, we look forward to seeing construction beginning in the next few months.”
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