Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

WHEELY SORRY; Mallon Apology over Fiasco

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

WHEELY SORRY; Mallon Apology over Fiasco

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY McKENZIE

MAYOR Ray Mallon today made a public apology over Teesside's Big Wheel delay.

Middlesbrough Council claimed in March that the 40metre-high wheel - similar to the London Eye - could be up and running within weeks.

The announcement - revealed exclusively on the front page of the Gazette - was greeted with widespread excitement.

But the Gazette has since discovered that the wheel hasn't even been built and no contract was ever signed to guarantee a booking.

It will now be next year at the earliest before a Big Wheel will turn in Middlesbrough's Centre Square.

Mr Mallon said of the fiasco: "I would like to apologise to the public for building up their hopes. There has been a great deal of miscommunication within the council and with the owners of the proposed wheel.

"This has led to a number of people believing that the wheel was almost on our doorstep - when in reality it was a long way from arriving in the town.

"Hopefully we will have the wheel some time next year and a lot of work is going on to make that happen.

"Again, I would like to apologise to the public and the Evening Gazette for this unfortunate situation." Back in March, the council said that if planning permission was granted on April 9, the wheel could be up and running inside a fortnight.

Council bosses had hoped it would be the centrepiece for Middlesbrough's One Big Night celebrations on April 23.

Planning consent was granted on time but it now appears no one at the council had actually checked if a wheel was built and ready.

The council has still not yet signed a contract with World Tourist Attractions (WTA), who were to provide the wheel.

WTA has confirmed the wheel will definitely not be available this year - but may be ready for 2010.

A spokesman said: "WTA worked very hard to reorganise our manufacturing schedule to allow us to provide a wheel in time for the summer of 2009 - this proved to be impossible, given the current workload on our manufacturing process. …

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