Natural England hits back at criticism over Southsea Solent Wheel saga

The Solent Wheel

The Solent Wheel

A CGI of the last plan for the Pall Europe tower, which has now been axed

Anger as stalemate emerges over future plans for derelict Portsmouth building

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A GOVERNMENT body has hit back at critics claiming it played a part in forcing out Southsea’s Solent Wheel.

The owners of the Clarence Pier attraction decided they would not be bringing it back as Portsmouth City Council said it could only be up for six months of the year to avoid clashing with the migration of Brent geese.

Natural England provided advice to the council and the developer before planning permission was granted and before the wheel was built about the potential impact on the geese when the birds fly in for the winter months.

Natural England spokeswoman

Council bosses said their ‘hands were tied’ after Natural England warned the birds could have clashed with the £750,000 attraction during their migration flight path.

But Natural England insists it gave advice which did not necessarily have to be taken on board.

A Natural England spokeswoman said: ‘Portsmouth City Council is responsible for making decisions on planning applications,.

‘In this case, it decided to permit the wheel for the summer and impose a condition for the wheel to be taken down in winter months until the developer can provide sufficient information to rule out an impact on the geese.

‘Natural England provided advice to the council and the developer before planning permission was granted and before the wheel was built about the potential impact on the geese when the birds fly in for the winter months.

‘Natural England is ready to work with the developer and the local authority to advise how the development could be carefully planned to ensure no impact on the important and protected geese population.’

But Tory culture boss Cllr Linda Symes said it would have been unreasonable to have not followed the guidance given.

She said: ‘It would have made it very difficult for us to have worked with Natural England in the future, so it’s not fair to say that. It’s often the case that we adhere to its guidance.

‘We stopped plans to build more beach huts because Natural England wanted a three-year bird survey. Why have a body like Natural England, giving us advice, if we then don’t take it?’

Meanwhile, Clarence Pier owner Jill Norman has revealed another reason for axing the Solent Wheel.

She said: ‘The council advised the Valuation Office Agency of the planning permission, and the VOA has now made the portable structure subject to business rates, which are in addition to the annual rates already paid by the company for the whole of Clarence Pier.

‘Our trade association is now looking into the implications this will have for all amusement parks within UK. It is highly unusual to rate a portable amusement ride individually.’

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