Brighton i360

Now that the i360, or Brighton Eye, has been granted planning permission, the debate about whether it should or should not go up is over. The Eye will be iconic, without doubt, but is it good for Brighton’s heritage?

Anyone who has seen the view from the top of Sussex Heights should be looking forward to going up the i360 when it is built. Sussex Heights is 82m tall; the i360 will be 172m and just 4m wide! A single pod will carry up to 125 people to the top of what will be Britain’s tallest observation tower to give 25-mile views. The architects, David Marks and Julia Barfield, are the husband and wife team behind the phenomenally successful London Eye. It all sounds good so far but its historically-important location makes it a sensitive subject.

The i360 will be placed on the seafront across the road from the centre of Regency Square, at the point where the Grade I Listed West Pier once met land. The Square and Pier were built in 1818-28 and 1866 respectively. In 1968, Richard Attenborough’s film, Oh! What a Lovely War, was filmed on the Pier but it still closed in 1975. The West Pier Trust, who initiated the scheme, and many other interested parties see the i360 as the West Pier’s chance for revival at a later date. The project will pay for the removal of the worst sections of the West Pier wreckage, leaving a tidy central island. The Pier’s original toll booth (currently the rock shop) along with a new matching copy will become the ticket offices of the i360. There are benefits to local heritage for sure.

Everything that I have said so far suggests that I was completely in favour of the project but that was certainly not the case – I had some serious concerns. I was worried about the way that it will look next to Regency Square and also about the height precedents that it may set. Also, and I realise that it’s not an architectural consideration, I was concerned that the i360’s wind turbines could be dangerous to Sussex Heights’ family of peregrine falcons.

During the run-up to planning permission being granted, I’m glad that I stood up for concerned local residents and Brighton’s delicate heritage. Now that it’s going to be built though, I want to be the first one up to catch the view!