Page last updated at 14:07 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Belfast Wheel 'to close in weeks'

Belfast Big Wheel
The Big Wheel has been beside City Hall since October 2007

The Belfast Wheel is to shut down in a matter of weeks, the BBC has learned.

The company that owns it - Great City Attractions - had lodged a planning application last year to keep it in Belfast until next summer.

The DOE has said that application is still under consideration. However the BBC has learned Great City Attractions has decided to close the wheel down.

It is understood the last ride on the wheel will be on Sunday 11 April at 1800 GMT.

The Wheel has been a familiar sight outside Belfast City Hall since it came to the city in October 2007.

It had originally been scheduled to stay for just six months, but its popularity saw its stay extended.

The Environment Agency had objected to the wheel staying any longer as it wanted to ensure it did not become a permanent feature beside a listed building.

The wheel had its fair share of ups and downs in its two years in Belfast

There have been talks about moving the wheel to Belfast's Titanic Quarter but it is not yet known if this is likely to happen.

Lord Mayor Naomi Long said that it was disappointing that the wheel may be on its way out because it had added to the experience of visitors.

"While planning is clearly a contributory factor in this it is probably not the only decision," she said.

"There was a time, economically, when companies like the City Attractions simply go out if a new opportunity came and purchase a new wheel and start from scratch in a new city.

"I don't think financially that's viable at this time so there are a number of cities, I mean York has lost its wheel recently because it has been moved to another city and it may be that it's the law of diminishing returns after they have been there for a while they move on to fresh pastures and they get a boost from that."

The wheel has 42 gondolas, each of which can hold up to six adults and two children. Each journey lasts for about 12 minutes.

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