Objectors put spoke in big wheel’s return

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MOVES to bring the big wheel back to York are under fire from leading names in the city’s heritage community.

Tourism chiefs wanted to see the 53-metre structure brought back to the city and installed in the Museum Gardens as an added attraction.

But The Dean of York, the Very Rev Keith Jones, has protested on behalf of the Dean and Chapter, claiming the 53-metre structure in Museum Gardens would spoil the view of York Minster across the Vale of York.

English Heritage has also pointed out to York Council the attraction would directly rival the Minster’s place on the skyline.

The watchdog warned it would have no choice but to argue for refusal unless it were shown the benefit to the public would outweigh any harm to the setting of the Minster – and permission was restricted to three years or less.

York Georgian Society has also called for the wheel to be in a more “appropriate” setting such as a fairground or amusement park.

It says it would be out of character with the historic and cultural significance of the gardens and spoil the appearance and setting of listed buildings and scheduled monuments.

The Dean said “The general principle of introducing a wheel to the centre of the city is attractive, and the possibility of improving a poor corner of the Abbey area, and opening a new place of enjoyment and passage near Bootham Bar is laudable.

“However, we have taken note of the visual impact of the wheel on the skyline of the city and particularly in relation to the Minster.

“I am sorry to say that the photographs provided to show the impact of the wheel undermine the credibility of the scheme.

“There should be at least four views across the Vale taken, and the one chosen is the one that most carefully mitigates the impact, making the most of the distance from the Minster and showing it side on. From other angles across the surroundings of the city the wheel will be a major intrusion on one of the great sights of Yorkshire.”

He accepted the wheel would provide an exciting alternative to what York residents know “but it actually diminishes one of the city’s rare qualities, of an English city that has successfully resisted the debasement of its skyline.

“The wheel is, of course, to last only three years. However, the intrusion will have been made.” He suggested the move would mirror the failure of some other cities with great skylines to resist high buildings, including the City of London.

“In the case of York, extra vigilance will be needed to resist what would rob the city of a great asset: the view of York Minster across the Vale of York,” he continued.

York Museums Trust said it had a number of meetings with English Heritage and was glad it could see the value of the wheel’s potential public benefits, provided certain conditions were satisfied.

“We understand the concerns that they have registered in their official response and will make sure that they are addressed,” he said.

Money raised would improve the site for residents and visitors, including a new public amenity area. Any further surplus would be reinvested in York Art Gallery and Museum Gardens.

The trust was now only seeking permission for two years rather than three, after which the wheel would be removed.

York Civic Trust Director Peter Brown said: “Taking everything into consideration we thought it was such a sensitive location with all the scheduled monuments and close proximity to the Minster that we felt it would have an adverse impact.

“We took into account is was only going to be for a few years but we still thought it was unacceptable.”

The attraction of a York Wheel or Eye was underlined by its success at the National Railway Museum. Since then various ideas have been discussed to bring back such an attraction but so far no one has been able to agree where.