Did the West Pier Trust fail to contract an i360 funding/delivery deadline with Marks Barfield?

20 September 2013…..Austin, Texas has a viewing pod – almost identical and of similar height – on the edge of its amusement park.   It cost them much less than HALF what Marks Barfield have the cheek to say they need for their near identical pod that would rise a very little bit higher.
Unlike its London Eye, which goes so slowly that each of its MYRIAD pods can be filled and emptied of  people as it goes round, the proposed i360 would stop on the ground, fill and empty its one pod of whatever it has available on the ground (1-200) and then go up and come down.  It is inefficient.
If built, the i360 would only really be viable if a whole party is loaded, goes up, has a party and comes down again – whenever.  On a daily basis, only whatever activity goes on in the surrounding glass box of a shell around it would generate activity or income.
BHCC made a major mistake when its legal department deemed development to have started after a few bits sitting on the sea floor were picked up and cleared away by Marks Barfield’s people.  It happened for 2 reasons:
1.    A territorial threat existed from the Brighton O applicants wishing to site their outsize wheel beside the West Pier site until the i360 was built.  The legal judgment that i360 development was deemed to have commenced sent a message to Brighton O applicants that the space beside them was not available.
2.   The three-year time limit for implementing the i360 planning consent was closing in on Marks Barfield  and BHCC wanted the i360 to succeed. But allowing that bit of clearance, etc. to be judged a start on development is why we now suffer “planning blight” there which could see it stay as it is until whenever.  There is nothing anyone at BHCC can do to make the project progress.  Only  if the site becomes derelict in an unsightly way would BHCC be able to – say – issue a s215 enforcement notice on The West Pier Trust to sort it out.
BHCC has given and continues to give both Marks Barfield and The West Pier Trust THEIR trust. 
Mr. Marks came to the Economic Development & Culture Committee meeting of 19th September 2013 to ‘update’ on his situation.  He gave a long speech at the front end of the meeting saying nothing except, ‘we are still seeking funding and poor us for the shock of losing what we had at the last minute’ kind of thing.  He drew himself up to a pose of full dignity and self-importance as though expecting serious deference as he delivered his proud ‘man of substance’ performance.
Questions were posed at the meeting by Selma Montford in a public question and Cllr Mary Mears in debate about what lending support deadline BHCC has in place or intends to impose on the i360 developers.  The Chair reminded all that no money goes to the i360 until private funding is in place and that the money would be lent at a commercial rate of interest.  Handling of the i360 business at the meeting was rather awkward and a tiny bit embarrassing for all concerned, it seemed to me. BHCC  just sits tight, really, keeping the lending offer on the table if Marks Barfield can get its act together and no more.  Maybe they have no choice, would be in breach of a contract (is there one?) if it withdrew the offer of the loan.
The West Pier Trust (a registered charity and owners of the site) may or may not have contracted with Marks Barfield to have full funding in place by any kind of deadline, however; and this was the question that nobody asked at the meeting and nobody seems to be asking at all. Why wasn’t their  representative sitting there, hauled before the committee and asked to explain themselves? 
When Karis lost its funding (ING bank) to build its consented Frank Gehry monstrosity at King Alfred, there was a contract in place between BHCC and Karis providing a deadline for Karis to find replacement funding.  They were unable to do so, the planning consent expired and it was game over for that scheme.
If the West Pier Trust HAVE failed to ensure a funding achievement end date, then Marks Barfield has the rest of its existence to find the funding to deliver its intrusive pod on a pole – dubbed by one wag commenting behind an Argus article as the “iSore” – which would remain just as empty as the more attractive and less intrusive Brighton Wheel (replacing the Brighton O project further down the beach). And the Trust is not free to do anything but wait.
Should it get built and in the event of the pod failing as a business, guess who ownership of the pod and debt passes to?  Yup, BHCC.
As a registered charity, The West Pier Trust can be held to account by the Charity Commissioners and someone (not saveHOVE) needs to start asking serious questions of The West Pier Trust who OWN both the building site and the wreck at sea.  The council agreed to lend money at a commercial rate of interest and there is grant money but not a penny of it can be used by Marks Barfield until private funding is also in place.  Those funders would be second in line behind BHCC for debt repayment too.
Without apparent need to do so, Mr. Marks stayed until the very end of the Economic Development & Culture meeting too – and outside, in the lobby, afterwards, he hastily  approached the quickly departing  Chair, Geoffrey Bowden, to grab a few words.  As ever, Cllr Bowden was warm and polite but he did not stop for more than 20-30  seconds and that exchange and the body language of both men told me more than all the formal exchanges that took place in the meeting.  Mr. Marks looked rather miserable.
Marks Barfield are humiliating the Administration by hanging around.  If the West Pier Trust failed to contain the situation, then it is up to Marks Barfield to do the decent thing now and withdraw completely or put in a new application for a more sensible scheme so another project of some kind can be proposed for the site. 
The Council is the wrong target for public attention and questioning.  Money is available but not given.  All attention and questions should be directed at The West Pier Trust now.  How strangely silent, reticent and invisible they seem to have become, eh?

About saveHOVE

Concerned with planning, development and the conservation of historic Hove, we actively seek to prevent inappropriate, negligent and abusive redevelopments!
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