More delays set for i360 loan repayments

Almost a million pounds of i360 debt repayment is expected to be held back at the end of the year.

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 12:52 pm
i360, Brighton

It is the fourth time a deferment has been requested by the company after Brighton and Hove City Council loaned it £36.2 million to build the seafront attraction.

So far the city council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee has deferred £2.793million in loan repayment.

Next week (Thursday December 5) the committee is expected to defer the next payment of up to £880,304.25 and not take default action.

Including interest the loan now stands at £37.678million.

During the spring and early summer visitor numbers were up by 14 per cent from the previous year.

Bad weather from August through to November bad weather is blamed for low visitor numbers.

A report going before the committee by Avison Young, appointed to work on a preferred recommendation for restructuring the loan, advised against the authority stepping in and taking over the attraction.

The report said: “The asset benefits from sponsorship and maintenance arrangements that could be terminated as a result of an insolvency or step-in by the city council, and there would be a loss of value to the asset that is likely to be worse than restructuring the loan.

“Furthermore, as the directors of the i360 are operating the asset in way that substantially meets the requirements of the city council and are being co-operative, there is currently no clear rationale to pursue an enforcement strategy.”

The attraction has generated £89.6 million for the city economy, according to the report going before councillors.

In the three years since it opened the i360 has carried more than one million passengers, a figure lower than the original projections.

Better days in September saw large increases in visitor numbers on 10 September, up 54 per cent; 17 September, up 68 per cent, 19 September up 54 per cent and 21 September up 83 per cent.

Falling visitor numbers follow the trend experienced by the Royal Pavilion, which saw a fall in visitor numbers despite it being a very hot summer.

If the i360 were to be performing at the expected level it should be achieving visitor figures of 433,204 by 2020/21 and 486,419 by 2021/22.

This would enable the i360 to pay all of the Public Works Loan Board element of its loan from 2021/22.

Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) also loaned the attraction £4.06m from its Growing Places Fund as it recognised the economic and regeneration value to the city region’s economy.

As the attraction cannot pay back this loan by 2021, the LEP has agreed to make the money repayable by “novation” – passing the contract from one organisation to another – to the city council, subject to agreement from the Policy and Resources Committee.

The committee is due to meet in public at Brighton Town Hall from 4pm on Thursday 5 December.