A £750,000 plan has been revealed to bring a huge ferris wheel to Portsmouth seafront.
Clarence Pier has splashed out on a 110ft-high structure dubbed the Solent Eye, which it hopes to have in place by Easter next year.
We have always thought the seafront would benefit from a big wheel, because it has spectacular views. You would be able to see the dockyard, the harbour and the Isle of Wight.Clarence Pier co-director Jimmy Norman
The family ride is being built in Italy by attractions firm Technical Park and pier bosses anticipate it will pull even more visitors into the region.
The attraction, which will need planning permission from Portsmouth City Council before it comes to the pier, would have 24 gondolas, each seating six passengers.
The wheel, which would go near the Golden Horseshoe Arcade and look on to Pier Road, would include a VIP gondola. It comes after the pier secured permission to build a bigger 130ft wheel in 2007 – seen as Southsea’s answer to the London Eye – but due to the economic downturn it never materialised. Pier co-director Jimmy Norman said it would be a huge boost for business: ‘We have always thought the seafront would benefit from a big wheel, because it has spectacular views. You would be able to see the dockyard, the harbour and the Isle of Wight.
‘There’s a lot to be seen from the pier. We’re hoping this will give us a big boost, that’s why we’re making such a purchase.’
The Solent Eye would be open all year and available for group bookings, special VIP events and private parties alongside general admissions. Nearby South Parade Pier revealed plans this year to set up a big wheel and other family attractions in time for next summer.
A Heritage Statement in support of the plans says the proposed wheel structure would provide a ‘fresh, new attraction’ that shouldn’t have ‘any negative impact on existing historical views and monuments’.
Tory council leader Donna Jones said planning permission should have been secured before spending any money.
But pier bosses say they’ll take the wheel elsewhere if they can’t get permission in Portsmouth. Gill Norman, also a co-director, said: ‘In the event that the planning application is not successful, as this equipment is classed as plant and machinery and is portable then we do have alternative options to place it in another city, but we believe it would be a great loss to Southsea if we had to do this.’
Lindsay Holloway, general manager of Blue Reef Aquarium, welcomed the plans.
He said: ‘Anything that improves the seafront is great. I hope it will encourage the extra visitors to come and see the other attractions here.
‘The seafront is a hugely important resource to the city.’
Tory culture boss Linda Symes said: ‘It’s an added attraction to our seafront.
‘It would bring people here, generate jobs and boost the economy.’
The wheel could cost £6 per adult, £4 for children and £2 for toddlers.
In comparison, a standard ticket for the London Eye costs £19.35 and it costs £9.50 to go up the Spinnaker Tower. For residents it is £7.15.