Friday, February 27, 2009

Big Wheel Turning?

Here we go again. One company’s money making venture is an anathema to vast numbers of other people and I think those who are worried have every right to be. It seems that ‘one of the nation's leading visitor destinations’ – don’t you just hate that term – is planning a giant 112ft wheel to be up and running by the summer. The Lomond Eye is expected to attract thousands of tourists courtesy of a unique perspective on the Loch Lomond landscape. The company behind the idea is Loch Lomond Shores, which believes the structure – equal in height to the Edinburgh Wheel on Princes Street at Christmas – represents a major tourist draw.

Let’s take this in shall we. They think that the wheel will be a tourist draw. No it isn’t! It’s Loch Lomond and the surrounding area that is the tourist draw this is merely a scheme to make money off the back of it. There’s certainly an argument to say that while they might make more money putting it up and charging a pretty penny to go on it, the numbers of tourists overall visiting the area could be hit. Certainly more people probably don’t want to look at one of these things on the bonnie banks.

It’s one thing having them in London, Edinburgh or York where they are sited among a built environment but quite something else in the natural beauty that is Loch Lomond. The proposal has yet to be approved by Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, which governs the national park, but those behind the structure claim it would not be visually intrusive.

They would and they are barking if they think that.

Loch Lomond Shores attracted more than 1.2 million visitors last year, and Clare Gemmell, the centre manager, views the wheel as a means of increasing that figure. She said: "We have no intention of this attraction being seen as a funfair big wheel, and we will ensure the structure and the promotions surrounding this proposal will be seen as an educational, environmental tool.

The centre had 1.2 million visitors, it didn’t attract them and how can it be seen, as anything other than what it is. . .a bloody great wheel!

To cap it all those experts in all things tourism Visitscotland are hoping that the Lomond Eye could be as successful as the Falkirk Wheel, which last year attracted over 500,000 visitors. Do they not get it?

In an increasingly busy, built environment we need to protect the natural beauty that offers visitors to Scotland respite from the visual assault that cities provide. A few years ago the former head of Scottish Boarders Tourist Board said to me. “The trouble with the Borders is we don’t have a world class attraction.” This scheme is a result of that same muddled thinking. We have the best world-class attraction of all in Scotland. The beauty of the hills, mountains, lochs, views, seashores, moors and the fact that there’s not a lot of people.

Let’s not try to fix it, ‘cos it ain’t broke.


Indy said...

Have you ever been to Loch Lomond Shores? Do you know where it is?
It's at Balloch. It's already a busy, built environment. Loch Lomond is a big loch - this is at the weegie end.

Richard Havers said...

Yes I've been to Balloch and no it's not a 'built' environment in the sense of being a city!

Anonymous said...

The Loch is on my doorstep and I love it. My instinct is to oppose this proposed development and yet considering the number of people who pass through the area, how many of them spend time and money there?

The dichotomy is to maintain the natural and magical beauty whilst capitalising on the tourist revenue thus helping the local economy.

We've been waiting for years for the re-launch of the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer, and there is a seaplane makes flights over the loch both perhaps more in keeping with the ambience. However I wonder whether these two attractions would have the appeal of a wheel?

The Lake district perhaps shows how an area of outstanding natural beauty can also attract spending without being too OTT.

Balloch ain't a city but I suppose over 20,000 live in the Vale of Leven which means its not a hamlet either.

It's one thing attracting visitors but another getting them to spend time and money in the place.

I can offer no answer to that.

Richard Havers said...

The point of the wheel is – how many extra people will it bring to the area? My instinct is not a lot. The thing will undoubtedly be lit up and will be visible from almost every piece of shore line. It's not what it means to the people close to it, it's what it means to everyone else.

If there are areas to go that don't have a stonking great wheel then I'd probably go there!

Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with you. However I'll bet the proponents argument will be "ok then if not the wheel what?"

The amount of public money that has gone into Lomond Shores is frightening (£800k just for the hideous roundabout on the A82 which "heralds" the thing)

There will be further development to justify the previous development, to justify Scottish Enterprise, to justify the public money.

Oh and the National Park's HQ in Balloch cost over £5 million too.

Meanwhile the Vale of Leven Hospital struggles to stay open as locals are diverted to the RAH in Paisley.

Anonymous said...


It's not ALL a waste of money though. The National Park HQ won the Carbon Trust's Low Carbon building award for 2009.

Kevan said...

Seems like they are trying to treat the area as a giant theme park that has been custom built to draw in the tourists and their dosh. The problem with theme parks is that they offer the same guff day after day. They are forced to change the 'main attraction' periodically to entice the people, and their dosh, back again.

Nature doesn't need a new 'main attraction' every few years. Nature IS the attraction! Nature also helps ensure that each visit is different from the last one. A change in weather can have a dramatic effect on a visit.

The best way to draw in tourists to Scotland is to let potential visitors see a glimpse of what they will be able to see when they get here. The first step in making sure that the glimpse that they get is the right one is to sack each and every person currently involved with the shockingly bad visitscotland web site. Turn control of it's content over to local groups with an interest in seeing tourism grow in their area. It won't take long for the enticing glimpses to come flooding in. Who knows, we might even manage to keep the details of events up to date!!!

Ellee Seymour said...

I also think that visitors come to Scotland for the scenic, tranquil landscape. The wheel needs a city landscape. It's not going to be successful financially unless there are thousands more visitors each year, and nobody can be certain of that.