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Parker’s Piece wheel can stay until October



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The observation wheel on Parker’s Piece can stay in place until the end of October after councillors voted to grant time-limited planning permission for the structure today (Wednesday, July 7).

Bronson Thurston with the ferris wheel on Parker's Piece, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (48980763)
Bronson Thurston with the ferris wheel on Parker's Piece, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (48980763)

The wheel – which the owner City View Wheel says is “not a ferris wheel but an observation wheel” – was erected in May.

Standing 36 metres high and operating between 11am and 8pm every day, the company says it offers “breathtaking” views of the city.

The wheel was put in place using permitted development rights, which the Greater Cambridge Planning Service said allowed it to stay for up to 56 days. Without planning permission, the wheel would have to be taken down after that period.

Parker’s Piece is a protected open space in the centre of Cambridge, surrounded by a number of listed buildings.

The meeting heard the council’s conservation officer objected to the application for planning permission. But council planning officers recommended councillors to approve the application.

The decision to grant planning permission for the wheel up to October 31 was taken unanimously by Cambridge City Council’s planning committee, with five votes in favour.

In a statement from the applicant which was read out to the committee, City View Wheel said the structure has been “generally well received”.

Bronson Thurston with the ferris wheel on Parker's Piece, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (48980765)
Bronson Thurston with the ferris wheel on Parker's Piece, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (48980765)

Market ward councillor Katie Porrer, who was not speaking as a member of the committee, said she supported a wheel being in place for part of this year “in principle”, arguing it would help with the city’s Covid recovery, but raised concerns over the process by which it was installed.

She said: “The permitted development rights, which were used quite legally by the owner, have caused real upset for many of our residents and further afield. And it’s particularly unfortunate that a letter consulting residents living around the Piece arrived on the morning that the wheel went up, which to be honest has upset so many people.

“It felt like a fait accompli and it has eroded the trust unfortunately in the process.”

Cllr Porrer objected to a suggested condition that would have allowed use of a diesel generator to power the wheel for another month.

The meeting heard that the wheel was originally intended to be powered via the mains electricity, but that an upgrade to the power supply infrastructure is required. The meeting heard a solar-powered generator is being secured which can be installed at “very short notice”, but no set timescale was given.

Planning officers said that when it comes to upgrading the mains supply an “install date is yet to be confirmed”.

The committee agreed to delegate authority to officers in consultation with the chair to draw up a condition to limit the use of the diesel generator in response to the availability of alternatives.

Bronson Thurston with the ferris wheel on Parker's Piece, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (48980738)
Bronson Thurston with the ferris wheel on Parker's Piece, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (48980738)

The council’s executive councillor for planning policy and transport, Katie Thornburrow, noted that fewer events have been held on the green space during the pandemic, and said: “I think it’s important that something is provided for families to come to, and I think it’s an exciting structure in this space for a period of a few months.

“The London Eye was very controversial when it was first put up. It was loved and hated, so it’s not surprising that there has been positive and negative feedback about this structure”.

She said: “There have been Ferris wheels used in our open spaces in the past in connection with fairs and they have always been very popular, and I think this is proving popular.”

She said the wheel will be in place “only for a short period”.

Speaking about the use of a diesel generator, she said “it is really disappointing that this has had some teething problems”.

Cllr Dave Baigent described the wheel as a “first class idea” and “a wonderful piece of public art”.

He added: “I can’t see why anybody would want to object to this”.

Chair of the committee, Martin Smart, said: “The wheel itself is beautiful”. But added the base is “messy” and “could be improved”.

A planning officer said the application was submitted at the end of March, but due to “delays in validation” it was not validated until the beginning of May.

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