The Brighton i360’s biggest individual shareholder has defended the tourist attraction’s request to spread payments to the council over a longer period.
Julia Barfield, one of the architects of the viewing tower, along with her late husband David Marks, said that the i360 was trading at a profit.
But the company’s most recent accounts – to the end of June last year – show a loss of more than £3.6 million.
This is understood to reflect accounting rules for things like interest payments that are due but not necessarily paid.
It also results from accounting rules about recording changes in the value of assets, most of which depreciate.
The i360 has asked Brighton and Hove City Council to be allowed to put off payments totalling more than £1 million a year for up to eight years. It would mean a deferral of about £8.7 million.
This would enable the company to pay off another more expensive loan more quickly. The more expensive loan – totalling £4 million – came from the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership – the LEP.
The LEP said: “We have been approached by the directors of the i360 in relation to our current loan terms and we are engaged in discussions with them and colleagues from BHCC (the council).”
It is believed that the i360 is asking for the interest rate to be reduced.
The LEP loan is dwarfed by the Public Works Loan Board’s £36 million Loan which is underwritten by the council.
The i360’s request will be considered by the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee in a meeting at Hove Town Hall next Thursday (14 June).
Julia Barfield said: “Thanks in large part to our partnership with Brighton and Hove City Council, the i360 is bringing inspiration and delight to hundreds of thousands of people every year.
“It is already the most-visited paid-for attraction in Brighton and Hove.
“It has boosted the local economy and is raising the profile of the city around the world.
“The i360 is making an operating profit but, like many start-ups, we have needed to make some commercial adjustments while we build the business.
“These have included further capital injections from shareholders plus a request for flexibility on the timings of interest repayments to our lenders.
“Under the terms of our proposal, Brighton and Hove City Council would still receive more than enough money to repay its loan to central government.
“It would also still enjoy the £35 million total profit agreed to over the 25-year loan period – but with greater flexibility on payment dates.
“This flexibility would enable the i360 to continue delivering the benefits already being seen in the city.
“To date these include supporting more than 100 local jobs all paying the Living Wage, drawing additional visitors to the city which in turn has benefited the wider tourism economy, paying £2.5 million profit payments to the council which has helped transform the seafront, giving free tickets to the city’s state school children and raising many thousands of pounds for key city charities.
“Our partners recognise the important role this family-owned attraction plays in the city economy and we look forward to continuing our conversations with them in the coming weeks.”