Curtain comes down on the Solent Wheel

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IT’s the beginning of the end of Southsea’s Solent Wheel.

Today work began to pull down the attraction after only being unveiled to the public this year.

Workers are busy dismantling the 110ft Clarence Pier ride – which won’t be making a return to the seafront next summer due to a row over planning rules stipulating it can’t be set up when Brent geese migrate for the winter.

Natural England advised Portsmouth City Council that birds would otherwise clash with the wheel’s pods – so ride officials were told they couldn’t have it up and running between October 1 and March 20 each year.

The restrictions prompted Solent Wheel owners Jimmy and Jill Norman to announce last month that it won’t be coming back next year.

Mr Norman said they had found another location to put up the wheel this Christmas – but wouldn’t reveal where – and that talks are being held with other seaside resorts about its return next summer. He said: ‘I’m disappointed, that goes without saying. But these things happen and we have get on with it.

‘It’s a shame, because it was a good addition to the skyline of Portsmouth and we got a lot of positive feedback from the public.

‘But what can I say? It’s out of our hands. We have to abide by the rules.’

When asked what the future plans are for the ride, which was bought at a cost of £750,000 and built by attractions firm Technical Park, Mr Norman said: ‘We can’t divulge that right at this moment because there are a couple of people we are speaking to.

‘But it’s definitely somewhere for Christmas and we are in negotiations with a couple of other seaside resorts about where it will go next year.’

Portsmouth Tory culture boss, Cllr Linda Symes has already said the council’s ‘hands were tied’ over the advice given by Natural England – which said it was ‘concerned about the potential impacts to internationally-important bird populations which

fly between the land adjacent to the wheel and the mud flats in the nearby harbours during the winter to feed.’

Lib Dem culture spokesman, Cllr Lee Hunt, said the rules ‘didn’t make any sense’. He said: ‘Sometimes red tape and bureaucracy gets in the way of common sense.’

Pictures: Sarah Standing