Giant ferris wheel may spoil views of Edinburgh Castle
IT has stood proudly atop an extinct volcanic rock since the 12th century.
But now there are fears that classic views of Edinburgh Castle are about to be ruined by a giant ferris wheel.
The city council, which has agreed to lease out part of Princes Street Gardens to accommodate the 60-metre tall attraction, has been urged to find an alternative home for it to avoid impact on the city’s most famous landmark.
Historic Scotland, the government agency responsible for the castle, has warned planners that the wheel will “dominate” a string of views of the castle and other listed buildings, such as two churches and the Ross Fountain in the gardens.
It has stepped in just weeks after protesting against controversial plans to erect giant Olympic Rings on Edinburgh Castle for most of this year and forcing them to be relocated.
Other concerns about the proposed location of the giant wheel have been raised by the head of Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and Edinburgh’s main heritage body, the Cockburn Association.
Great City Attractions, which is based in the West Midlands, had been planning to run an even taller year-round attraction in Leith Docks, but shelved those plans after it became clear that the tram line to the port was being delayed indefinitely.
It has applied for planning permission to locate Edinburgh’s answer to the hugely popular London Eye from April to October initially, although it has won lengthy extensions elsewhere in Britain.
The council has refused to say how much it will be paid if the planning application is given the green light.
The same firm, which claims it can build the wheels in as little as 10 days, currently runs similar “observation wheels” in Manchester, Liverpool, Plymouth and York. It was given permission to set one up in Glasgow’s George Square for the festive season last year and the city council is allowing it to remain until May.
Manchester’s has been in place for several years, since an initial successful trial in 2004, while the one in York has been moved to another location, after first opening in 2006.
Nigel Ward, head of global development at Great City Attractions, said the company was unaware of any “major obections” to the proposed Edinburgh wheel yesterday.
He added: “We haven’t had to move any of our other wheels around Britain due to heritage or aesthetic concerns.”
However a letter to the city council from Historic Scotland, seen by The Scotsman, reveals the extent of the agency’s concerns.
Ian Thomson, senior heritage management officer, said: “Edinburgh Castle plays a leading role as the symbol, not only of the city, but of the nation and is of considerable cultural significance. The wheel’s size and proximity to the castle will impact on the appreciation of this iconic and historic landmark.
“The skyline at this location, viewed within the gardens and in longer views, will be interrupted. The importance of the castle, the castle rock and the spire of St John’s Episcopal Church (on Princes St) is highlighted in your ‘protection of key views’ guidance.”
Neil Baxter, director of the RIAS, said: “I cannot understand why they cannot put the wheel into West Princes Street Gardens, where it would be much less intrusive on views of the castle and the Old Town. There is a lot of activity brought into East Princes Street Gardens for the festive season and I would have thought that would be much better for something that is clearly overtly commercial.”
Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, said: “We have always supported the enhancement of Princes Street Gardens as a green tranquil space within the city and fought to prevent commercial activity that does not directly enhance it.
“Siting a tourist attraction is not going to enhance the peaceful nature of the gardens, but draw the hectic nature of the city into the gardens.”
John Knight, spokesman for the New Town Community Council, said: “This proposal is for six months which will mean the wheel will acquire by default a decree of permanennce.
“Indeed the undoubted revenue flow will prompt demand for it to become a permanent fixture, and the application for temporary use could well be the thin end of the wedge intentionally.”
Tom Buchanan, the council’s economic development leader, said: “This temporary attraction would give visitors to Edinburgh’s city centre a unique viewpoint on Scotland’s heritage rich historic capital city.
“Similar wheels have also successfully operated in many other historic cities including world heritage sites in Paris, Seville and Liverpool.”
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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