Councillors have approved plans to site three shipping containers next to the i360 temporarily to house a virtual cricket game known as Sixes.
The i360 hopes that Sixes, supported by food and drink sales, will play a part in improving the fortunes of the debt-laden seafront attraction.
A planning application for the converted shipping containers was submitted to Brighton and Hove City Council.
And councillors quizzed Brighton i360 director Ben Barfield Marks when the council’s Planning Committee met to discuss the proposal at Hove Town Hall yesterday (Wednesday 7 June).
The i360 said that “immersive” game was part of a plan to draw more people to the venue, with a chance to “eat, drink and bat” in each of the three containers.
The business needs a hit, having missed a number of repayments after borrowing £36 million through the council and £4 million from the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The council has taken over the LEP loan and, with interest added, the i360 now owes the council more than £48 million.
Labour councillor Liz Loughran, who chairs the Planning Committee, asked about the public benefit of the i360’s latest proposal, with the business needing to restart repayments of the loan.
Mr Barfield Marks said that Sixes has proved popular in other parts of the country, with venues in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
He said: “We have a good deal. We’re going to be paid a good licence fee. This will be very beneficial for the i360 to help repay the loan.”
Councillor Loughran also asked about the effect on the nearby Regency conservation area of the containers which are due to be clad in dark wood.
She said: “What we’re talking about is more like the seascape in Hastings or Kent rather than Brighton. Did you take that into account that the Brighton townscape is quite different?”
Mr Barfield Marks said that the colour was inspired by coastal buildings nationally, with many schemes using dark timber. The containers would have large windows, he said.
Council conservation officer Lesley Johnston said that the containers were “utilitarian” when compared with the neighbouring restored seafront arches.
She said that planning officers weighed the benefits of temporary use against the harm to the conservation area.
Labour councillor Les Hamilton said that the emphasis of the discussion was on conservation yet the new attraction would not be visible from King’s Road or Regency Square.
He said that he was a member of the Planning Committee “that gave planning consent to the i360 all those years ago” but had not backed the £36 million loan.
Councillor Hamilton said that a lot of work had gone into “trying to help the i360 to increase their revenue” – not just for the council’s sake but also for the public’s sake.
The proposal was “a very interesting activity” and he supported giving it a try.
Green councillor Sue Shanks said: “We do need to see it succeed, even if it is cricket, which isn’t a favourite thing of mine. But some people really like cricket apparently. We shall see.”
She said that it could work well with stag and hen parties – and they were a popular reason for groups coming to Brighton.