A giant observation wheel on Worthing’s seafront has been given permission for the next three years.
The 46-metre high wheel will be situated between the pier and lido, with 36 gondolas having the capacity to hold six people each.
De-Koning Leisure Group is looking to run the attraction for nine months out of each year starting in 2019 for three years.
Temporary planning permission was granted by Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee tonight (Wednesday March 27) by six votes to one with one abstention.
Before making a decision councillors heard objections from nearby residents who raised concerns about a loss of privacy and disruption, but also from supporters who felt the wheel would have a significant positive impact on the town’s economy.
Applicant Jan De-Koning said he wanted to bring the wheel to the ‘wonderful town of Worthing’.
He attempted to reassure residents by describing the structure as ‘graceful and stylish’ while there would be no flashing lights or music played.
They have operated wheels in Leicester, Sunderland, Bolton, Carmarthen and Beaumaris in Anglesey.
Kevin Jenkins, the council’s executive member for regeneration but speaking as a resident, said: “There is a huge cry to move Worthing on, to give it a little shake-up and shrug off the shrouds of the past.”
He suggested they needed to reinvent Worthing to ‘create a living breathing town with a vitality that offers something for everyone, a visitor experience and a retail experience’.
He added: “We need a sense of place or we will soon be drifting as flotsam on the turning tide, regaling our history and not welcoming our future.
“The application before you tonight is just one of the building blocks of that renaissance.”
Andy Sparsis, chairman of the Worthing Hospitality Federation and a director of the town centre BID, described how high streets nationally are facing a rapid decline.
He argued the wheel would be an opportunity to ‘kick start the town’s fight back’.
But one resident felt the wheel would ‘loom’ over their Edwardian terrace, while they would also lose their personal privacy with people looking into their windows, which he felt would be detrimental to their physical and mental health.
Another objector thought the wheel would be a ‘blot on the landscape’.
Susan Belton, chairman of the Worthing Society, said they did not object to the wheel itself, only its chosen location.
She felt it would have a negative effect on both the conservation area and the overall character of Worthing, and also echoed the point about the wheel being too close to residential properties.
Jim Deen (Lab, Central) backed the idea of a wheel but felt it was in the wrong location.
He questioned the fact that part of the promenade would be taken up by the wheel.
Meanwhile Hazel Thorpe (Lib Dem, Tarring) said: “I like it in principle but I do not like it in this location.”
But while the rest of the committee expressed some sympathy with residents they backed the application.
Paul Westover (Con, Central) said: “The offer this brings to the town is huge not just the size of the wheel but to the economy.”
Noel Atkins (Con, Salvington) pointed out that they could review it after three years if there were any issues, while committee chairman Paul Yallop (Con, Marine) suggested even if people riding the wheel could see into people’s bedrooms and living rooms they would not want to.
He explained: “On balance I believe it’s something that should be approved. I do hear the concerns but I genuinely do not think people if they wanted to will be able to look through windows.”
The wheel will operate between 10am and 10pm, seven days a week between March and November for three years, and is expected to attract 100,000 visitors per year.