Plans for the 53-metre wheel in the city’s West Princes Street Gardens were yesterday given the go-ahead for six months initially – although some councillors condemned it as a “ludicrous” and “stupid” location.
Historic Scotland, Edinburgh World Heritage and the Cockburn Association all expressed concern about the visual impact of the wheel and argued for alternative locations to be explored.
Great City Attractions agreed a £50,000 deal several months ago to lease out part of the gardens for the London Eye-style attraction, working out at just £277 a day. The private company has also agreed to give 50p from every sale of an £8 ticket to the city council for a “community fund”, while customers will be given vouchers for shops in the West End, which is badly affected by tramworks.
Only two members of the city’s planning committee – Conservative Joanna Mowat and Liberal Democrat Gary Peacock – voted against the wheel staying from the beginning of May until the end of October.
Great City Attractions has similar wheels in Liverpool, York and Manchester and was recently given permission to extend a big wheel’s stay in Glasgow’s George Square. Councillors were told the Edinburgh wheel will definitely be dismantled at the end of October, as it is going to the United States.
However, Nigel Ward, a director with the company, said: “Of course we will apply again if it is a success. We hope to start operating the Edinburgh wheel within the next two weeks.”
Principal planner Nancy Jamieson 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 key views of the city, but it is only going in on a temporary basis.”
Euan Leitch, assistant director at the Cockburn Association, said: “Our concern is that this company comes back and asks for it to run again next year.
“We don’t understand how it can be described as temporary when it is there for so long. Is it only temporary if it is there for 11 months of the year?”
Ms Mowat said: “What a ridiculously stupid place to put a giant wheel. We are told that there is no such thing as a precedent in planning, but that is my concern with this.”
Michael Apter, chair of the West End Traders Association, said: “We hope a lot of people who use it will be directed towards the shops in the area after they have been on the wheel.”