Council approves plans for Big Wheel on Princes Street

An artist's impression of how the wheel will look in the Gardens
An artist's impression of how the wheel will look in the Gardens
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A GIANT observation wheel will be up and running in Princes Street Gardens within weeks, amid fears of the structure becoming a near- permanent feature.

Construction on the 60-metre Wheel of Edinburgh is set to begin after city planners granted an application from a private firm to operate the attraction for six months.

Great City Attractions will pay the city council £50,000 to lease out East Princes Street Gardens from early May until October.

Councillors approved the proposals, which will see up to 1000 passengers per day pay £8 for a 15-minute ride on the wheel, although some warned the attraction would become a permanent feature.

Provisional ticket prices of £6.75 have risen to £8, although councillors were told that 50p of every adult ticket sold will go into a community fund.

Historic Scotland, Edinburgh World Heritage and the Cockburn Association all expressed fears views of Edinburgh Castle and other listed buildings would be impaired by the structure.

The wheel will be placed in Princes Street Gardens West – to aid struggling traders in the West End – instead of early proposals to site it in Princes Street Gardens East.

However, it will be placed directly beneath the Castle.

City centre councillor Joanna Mowat, who voted against the wheel, branded the location “ludicrous” and “stupid”.

She told fellow committee members yesterday: “You might come back to the planning committee after the elections and say ‘well this has been here for six months’ and it ends up staying.”

Afterwards she added: “If I knew this would help traders in the West End I’d give it my backing but I’m not convinced we’ll see the increased footfall, particularly considering the difficulties is accessing the area due to the tram works.”

Councillor Gary Peacock also voiced concerns about the length of stay, saying: “How do we know this is temporary? If this is a success people will want it to stay. I would not like to see this become a permanent fixture. There’s a place for the wheel in Edinburgh but I’m not sure this is it.”

Nancy Jamieson, principal planner at the city council, said the current permission only extended to October, when the wheel is planned to be shipped to the United States.

She said: “It’s important to stress that this is not a Ferris wheel, like the one that is next to the Scott Monument at Christmas. It is a high-quality wheel which will have enclosed pods like the London Eye.

“It is likely to have a significant impact on views and it will be visible from Calton Hill.

“This will be a significant intrusion, but it is only going in on a temporary basis.”

GREEN LIGHT FOR MOUND RINGS

A SET of 26-foot-high Olympic rings are to be located on The Mound after the proposals were approved, despite concerns they could lead to more promotional installations.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport had applied to place the huge aluminium rings as a focal point for Olympic celebrations this summer.

The rings will now be mounted on a podium close to the entrance to the Church of Scotland’s New College after approval was given by councillors yesterday.

The Agitos, the insignia for the Paralympic Games, will also be sited on The Mound after the main Olympics.

Today it emerged the Red Arrows will mark the official start of the London Olympics with a fly past over Edinburgh on July 27. The Arrows will also visit Belfast, Cardiff and London in the countdown to the event.

Original proposals to locate the Olympic rings and Agitos on Edinburgh Castle, which would have cost taxpayers £200,000, were withdrawn in the face of the Say No to Coe campaign run by the Evening News.

Conservative city centre councillor Joanna Mowat, who opposed the plans for the rings, suggested the decision to approve the bid could result in more applications from other groups seeking publicity.

She added: “If there was any traffic on Princes Street it would be a hazard, with people looking around to say ‘what the hell is this?’”.

Councillors approved the bid despite the concerns.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie previously insisted the move would not give rise to further installations.