Plymouth Hoe Big Wheel will spin this week - but future still uncertain
THE big wheel will continue to turn this week – but whether it spins throughout 2013 is down to council planners.
The attraction's new bosses told The Herald they will continue to operate the wheel, on the Hoe, up to and including Sunday.
But then they will close the 53-metre high structure, originally planned as a temporary attraction, pending the outcome of a new planning application.
Operators hope to be able to reopen for the school half-term holiday, beginning on February 16, and stay open until September.
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A decision on the future of the Wheel of Plymouth will then depend on its financial viability – which, in turn, is likely to depend on the weather.
"We are operating until Sunday, then it's closing," said John Lowery, operations manager for new firm Wheels Entertainments, set up by the wheel's new owner Freij World Attractions.
"The plan is to put a new planning application in," he said. "We are just in the process of advising planners."
As revealed in The Herald last month, Freij, which also now operates wheels in Liverpool and Manchester, bought the Plymouth and York wheels for an undisclosed sum from Dudley-based Shipley Investments.
The Wheel of Plymouth had originally arrived in the city in 2011, and in April last year was granted planning permission to keep turning until December 31.
But it had a mixed summer, which saw it hit by wet weather and former operator, Birmingham's Great City Attractions Global Limited, falling into administration and ceasing trading in August.
Shipley Investments brought in another operator, The Hall Organisation Ltd, to run it.
But it closed again and was due to be dismantled last month prior to being removed and the land restored to its previous condition by January 7.
However, when Freij took control it immediately said it wanted the wheel to stay in Plymouth.
Operating this week from 10am to 6pm daily, it has slashed prices and continued to employ a skeleton crew of four people, and a local security firm.
However, if allowed to stay it will employ up to 15 people throughout the summer.
"There will be internal discussions to see if it is financially viable to continue in the summer," Mr Lowery said.
"The weather has not helped. Everyone on the company is hoping for a dry 2013."
Freij, which has serviced the wheel since acquiring it, is also looking at siting wheels in other parts of the country.
"We are talking to other cities in the UK, ready for 2013," added Mr Lowery. "That's places that have not already got a wheel."
Plymouth City Council said planning officers had been in discussion with Freij and are expecting a planning application shortly.
"As the application is for a renewal of a consent we would expect the matter to be decided by a planning officer under delegated authority – unless the decision is referred to planning committee by a councillor," a council spokesman said.