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No to Torquay seafront big wheel this summer?

Torquay seafront wheel (Image courtesy: Guy Henderson)

Planners recommended to say no after 12 years

Torquay’s seafront big wheel, which has been a feature of Torbay’s summer landscape for more than a decade, could be missing this year.

Operators Mellors have come back to Torbay Council with their annual application for permission to site the big wheel in its usual place alongside the Princess Theatre from now until October.

But this time the council’s planning officers are advising members of the planning committee to say no to the ‘alien and incongruous’ wheel.

A council spokesman said: “In this case, officers have concluded that the harm to local heritage outweighs the benefits presented.”

Mellors want to put up their 45-metre wheel, a ticket office and a catering unit in the council-owned Princess Gardens. They would pay £30,000 towards resurfacing pathways in the gardens.

But the planning committee will hear that the site is a sensitive location in the Torquay Harbour Conservation Area and next to a listed war memorial and fountain.

The wheel would be in a core tourism investment area and a designated local green space.

The Torbay Heritage Trust complains that the permission is ‘not truly temporary’ as it comes back every summer. It says vehicles park in the gardens, trees have been taken down to allow access and the heritage impacts of the wheel have been downplayed. It says: “There are no very special circumstances to allow the wheel in this local green space.”

And Historic England says it is ‘strongly concerned’ about the harm the wheel does to heritage assets,

The council’s own principal historic environment officer says: “It is clear that the proposed development would cause clear harm to a number of identified heritage assets and that the proposals in their current form would neither preserve nor enhance the character or appearance of the identified conservation area.”

The officer goes on: “The wheel and its associated structures appear as alien and incongruous features. As well as causing physical damage to the park and garden, the proposed development would block views and dominate the space, thereby removing the sense of tranquillity of the gardens.”

The council spokesman added: “Officers found that the principle of the temporary provision of an observation wheel and ancillary development is considered to align with the development plan aspirations in terms of supporting and promoting tourism facilities and the management of local green spaces.

“Notwithstanding this, the council received objections to the application from Historic England, Torbay Heritage Trust and the council’s principal historic environment officer. In this case, officers have concluded that the harm to local heritage outweighs the benefits presented. Officer recommendation to the planning committee is to refuse planning permission.”

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