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You're a turn, so you are

...But not everyone's happy about Belfast's big wheel

By Victoria O'Hara

Belfast's Big Wheel will provide a great 'sky-full' for the public despite spinning during the dark winter months, according to the organisers.

The massive £3.5m structure, which is expected to open within days, was originally planned to be unveiled at the City Hall in the summer of 2006.

The event was set to mark the historic building's centenary.

Now after numerous delays the project, spearheaded by the DSD and backed by the city council, will instead run from October until March 2008.

The wheel has 42 air-conditioned passenger capsules for up to 330 people, and each 'flight' takes approximately 15 minutes

But some have questioned opening the attraction during the dark winter months.

In a letter to the Belfast Telegraph one reader said: "We can all rush down on dreary, wet, cold November days and see the mist over the Cavehill, while we rub the condensation on the pod's glass with our sleeve to see out."

However in October 2004 a 60m high big wheel was erected for tourists and shoppers in Manchester in the run-up to Christmas by World Tourist Attractions, the company also responsible for the Belfast Wheel.

It was hailed as a huge success for the city.

Senior manager for World Tourist Attractions, Nigel Ward, said the winter weather is not a concern for the operation of the 60m wheel.

"The wheel has fully enclosed gondolas on it," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

" Each of them are independently heated. So we are non-weather dependent."

Mr Ward said a VIP pod is also available for an extra special spin into the Belfast skyline.

"It has leather upholstery, is air-conditioned with a fridge and champagne, even a DVD player and a glass floor."

A trip in the VIP pod will cost between £55 and £65 with champagne.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers explained the project was prevented from being launched in the summer months due to council checks into cost, the use of council land, site safety and the duration of the project.

"This was a DSD project but it did not receive full council backing until October 2006," he said.

"Unfortunately the project was affected by delays as the council needed to be sure about issues."

And Councillor Rodgers admits there have been mixed responses to the wheel.

"Some people have questioned whether it is suitable being based in the grounds of the City Hall.

"But it will be a great attraction for the city in the run-up to Christmas for the people of Belfast and visitors," he said.

"It is all about creating a buzz and making our city more attractive, especially in the run-up to Christmas."

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