THE CONTROVERSIAL observation wheel is set to become a feature of the Stratford skyline for the next three summers.
Stratford District Council is preparing to seek an operator to run the London Eye-style wheel on the recreation ground car park next to the Tramway Bridge.
Plans for the 35 metre wheel’s first summer season this year prompted more than 200 objections from residents who argued it would be out of keeping with Shakespeare’s Stratford.
A district council spokesman told the Observer: “The council needs the income to balance its budget in an atmosphere of reduced government funding towards services.”
Last year the council received £155,000 in rental income during the first year.
A planning report weighing up the decision, considered the location of the wheel to be ‘compatible’ with the area which was ‘generally used for public recreation’.
Wheel operator De Koning Leisure Group, which paid the council £155,000 in rental income this summer, told The Observer the wheel had not attracted the level of custom anticipated by the company.
A spokesman declined to comment on the number of riders who took a spin, or how much revenue ticket sales had generated, but said it might consider bidding for the contract again.
Stratforward director Joe Baconnet said he did not think the wheel was a big draw for visitors to Stratford but equally did not think it had a negative impact on other businesses.
He added: “I don’t think it was necessarily a reason people visited Stratford though it may have been a factor. I’m not sure it justified the level of the spend by the operator.
“Having said that, they did a really good job and I also don’t think it was the intrusive, garish thing that lots of people feared. I thought it was quite classy and its appearance worked quite well with the town.”
The wheel, which operated for six months this summer, may run for a shorter period next year.
Council chiefs are expected to decide next Wednesday on seeking an operator.