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Brighton tower in limbo as more money is still needed

By Nick Tarver
BBC Sussex

A comptuter generated image of visitors inside the i360 viewing pod
The i360 received planning permission in 2006 but progress has stalled

Towering over Brighton's Georgian seafront, the ambitious i360 was intended to be this century's vertical answer to the Victorian pier.

Originally the viewing tower, built near the remains of the old West Pier, was to open in time for the London Olympics in 2012.

But the credit crunch stalled the project and the deadline will be missed.

The project's developers, Marks Barfield, still need to secure £10 million of funding before construction can begin. However, the company - which was also behind the London Eye - insists enthusiasm for the tower remains undiminished.

The i360 would transport visitors in a glass pod up to 149m (488ft) above sea level, giving panoramic views of the coast and the South Downs National Park.

The remains of the Brighton West Pier
The West Pier was destroyed by fire in 2003

David Marks, of Marks Barfield, described the delay as "frustrating", but would not commit to a new deadline for the tower.

He said: "We would love to have the last piece of funding in place to get on with it.

"But we don't have any banks breathing down our necks saying, 'can we have our money back'.

"We're hopeful that some of the larger banks will have a change of heart and see that this project has the real value and worth that we've demonstrated."

Mr Marks claims the i360 would create 154 permanent jobs in Brighton and attract 800,000 visitors.

It's pointless setting up target dates because they create disappointment
Rachel Clark

Most of the steel has already been formed into tubes in the Netherlands and part of the foundations have been laid.

The i360 also has the support of the West Pier Trust, whose members hope the tower will lead to a new pier being built on the site of the old one, which was destroyed by fire in 2003.

Rachel Clark, the chief executive of the West Pier Trust, said: "It was originally hoped to be finished for the Olympics, but obviously that's not very likely now.

"It's pointless setting up target dates because they create disappointment.

"There have been delays and that is very frustrating, but we're very optimistic that the funding gap will be closed and we hope it will be this year."

CGI image of i360
The i360 would transport visitors 149m (488ft) above sea level

Ms Clark said the "hiatus" has had a positive effect for the trust by allowing members to concentrate on plans to create a heritage centre inside one of kiosks salvaged from the pier.

She insisted there had also been very little local opposition to the the tower.

"The whole story of regenerating the West Pier has been a long and torturous one," she added. "I've been with the Trust for 18 years now so I'm used to the frustration - nothing is simple with this pier."




SEE ALSO
Pieces of West Pier up for sale
27 Jan 11 |  Sussex
West Pier clean-up gets under way
02 Feb 10 |  Sussex
Setbacks for seafront attractions
04 Feb 10 |  Sussex
Ruined pier 'not without beauty'
28 Mar 08 |  Sussex


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