PLANS for a London Eye-style wheel in Stratford have been given the go-ahead despite fierce public opposition.
But the 34-metre structure overlooking the river and theatre will not be appearing on the town’s skyline until next spring after bosses decided to postpone its installation.
Operators De Koning Leisure Group applied to Stratford District Council for permission to site the wheel on the Recreation Ground car park for a six month trial.
The proposals divided opinion with some arguing a wheel would be out of keeping with Shakespeare’s Stratford while others said it could help attract more visitors to the town.
And this week members of the council’s planning committee followed officers’ recommendations – granting permission by five votes to two.
Speaking after the decision, company director Jan de Koning said he was confident the attraction would prove a success.
He told The Observer: “We understand the concerns raised by residents and wish to assure them we will listen to any comments and do everything possible to ensure the wheel will cause minimum inconvenience.
“Taking on board the comments about light pollution, we have decided to postpone the installation of the wheel until the 2017 tourist season.
“We are delighted to have been given the opportunity to bring an observation wheel to Stratford and I’m absolutely certain the town will be very happy with this attraction.”
Stratford Town Council, Stratford Boat Club and Warwickshire County Council’s Highways Department had all raised concerns about the impact of the wheel while campaign group Stop The Wheel also spoke out against the plans.
Group spokesman Tony Godel said: “We feel we have had a very successful campaign due to the community commitment and dedication.
“It is very sad however as we are now going to be saddled with a ferris wheel despite the huge wave of objection from the town council, our ward members, Lynda Organ and Kate Rolfe, Historic England and many others.
“Although the ferris wheel is said to be temporary, it will no doubt have its licence extended.
“We do have the impression ‘wheels within deals’ have been going on behind closed doors to achieve this outcome and will be trying to expose any possible malpractice at Stratford District Council.”
Responding to the allegations, planning chairman, Coun Mark Cargill, said the issue had been robustly debated by the committee.
He added: “It was evident many members of the public felt strongly permission should be refused, however following submissions, the committee resolved to grant permission.
“This was a finely-balanced decision taking into account all sides but in the end it was the expected benefits to the tourist experience in Stratford that overcame objections.
“Stratford is predominately a tourist town and the committee felt this wheel could only beneficially add to that experience.”
Bosses hope the wheel, which is less than a quarter of the size of the London Eye, will be up and running for the Easter holidays in April.