Heritage body calls for relocation of planned big wheel

How the big wheel could look in Portobello
How the big wheel could look in Portobello
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A BIG wheel planned for the centre of Edinburgh should instead be based in Portobello, a leading heritage group has said.

The Cockburn Association today said a 60-metre Ferris wheel in Princes Street Gardens would spoil views of Edinburgh Castle.

The city council has been in advanced talks with a private firm over the wheel and the Evening News yesterday revealed it could be up and running in the west side of the gardens by next month.

But The Wheel of Edinburgh, which would be paid for and operated by Great City Attractions, would be much more suited to a “pleasure ground” such as Portobello, said heritage bosses. Euan Leitch, assistant director at the Cockburn Association, said: “The people of Edinburgh and the Cockburn Association have fought for over 100 years to keep the gardens quiet and peaceful, and free of commercial development. This would clearly be a commercial development.

“It’s hard to tell what impact the wheel would have on views, particularly from The Mound, but the argument [against the wheel being in Princes Street Gardens] still stands.

“Do people really come to look at Edinburgh Castle with a big wheel in the foreground?”

He added: “Portobello would be an interesting choice because of its history as a pleasure ground. It would provide very interesting views overlooking the city and across the Forth and is an area that the council should be promoting.”

Big wheel operators have previously rejected sites such as Leith because of fears over the lack of footfall, but residents and businesses owners in Portobello have backed the heritage group.

Paul Lambie, a filmmaker and Portobello resident, said: “Any kind of new tourist attraction in Portobello that highlights the fact there’s a beach there will probably boost the area and merits investigation. Portobello has a beautiful beach so if it gets more people down there, it’s good for people’s morale – and that’s obviously a positive.

“The more people you have buying coffee at The Beach House or lunch in Espy, the more the local economy is helped.”

Jayad Khasem, manager at Bonoful restaurant in the town, said: “Obviously this idea could help local businesses a lot.

“Most of my customers are regulars but when you ask people why they’re not coming in more often, they say it’s because there’s nothing else in the area.

“So anything that can help attract people in will definitely help local business.”

At 1000 passengers per day, the wheel’s arrival would act as a major boost for the local economy and pave the way for further investment in Portobello.

Maureen Child, Labour councillor for Portobello/Craigmillar, said: “I think that if residents’ fears about disruption and noise can be satisfied then I would say there could well be support for this idea in Portobello, but it will all depend on the detail.”

However, fears have been raised that moving the wheel to Portobello could increase noise and antisocial behaviour in the area.

John Stewart, chair of Portobello Community Council, said: “I know there’s been resistance to this sort of thing in the past because of the disturbance caused.

“There was a fair set up on the old Scottish Power site and there were lots of complaints about noise and the behaviour of teenagers as they were crossing the High Street.

“It was then suggested the fair could be moved down to the bus garage on Seafield Road East, which backs on to the promenade, but that never happened because of the extent of local opposition to the idea.”