Work has started on the 575 foot tower on the Brighton seafront opposite Regency Square and facing the defunct West Pier. Controversially the council approved a £36m loan to the architects Marks Barfield who constructed the London Eye. The repayment of the borrowing is to come from income generated by the tower.
Although the architects say opinion in the City is divided I have not come across that many residents who are either in favour or share their confident projections of expected visitors and revenue. A few hundred yards past the Brighton Pier, which we residents till term the Palace Pier, is a big wheel which had not been a huge success in terms of visitors. The i360 Tower will contain some of the original features of the West Pier but there will be a world of difference between the two. The surviving pier is the biggest tourist attraction in terms of visitors outside London attracting 4 million people a year.
Aside from the financial implications and having a vertical steel tower on the sea front which may prove an eyesore, I wonder what the visitor will actually see. There is not a great deal of activity at sea, you do not need a platform to look down the front as you can appreciate this anyway, anywhere and the view to the north, the downs is best enjoyed by walking on them. Are tourist platforms so enticing? There are two at Weymouth and Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, even a mile away there will be one at the new Marina development. It is true that the area round Preston St has become run down and best avoided. I am not sure if this is the way to regenerate this.
With the Royal Paviion, pier, the Laines, the wide seafront promenade extending from the Pier to Hove, you could argue Brighton has sufficient attractions particularly if you add the big wheel and Sea Life, funky bars , clubs and restaurants, the Theatre Royal, Hove Cricket Ground, Brighton Racecourse and the Amex. My own view is that the envisaged large swimming pool development on the sea front at Madeira Drive, modelled on the Bondi, will add more to the attraction of a popular seaside city at far less cost and this should be embraced and supported financially by the council. Brighton Marina, with more apartment towers being constructed now, was developed 40 years ago on the biggest land reclamation in Europe housing the largest marina in Europe and a successful, well run complex of restaurants, housing, boats, shops, casino, gym and Cineworld reflects how the Brighton council can show more vision and commercial nous than the present incumbents.