The Whey Aye wheel – what will it add to the North East?

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Last week, plans were approved to build the Whey Aye wheel on Newcastle Quayside. The Whey Aye will be Europe’s tallest observation wheel, standing nearly 140m high – 5m taller than the London Eye.

The original planning proposal for the wheel was for 10 years, but it’s been granted permanent planning permission. It’s expected to attract an additional 261,000 visitors to the city each year – generating almost £15m for the economy. The wheel will be built at Spillers Wharf, on the River Tyne. This site has been derelict since 2011 and I fully support it being brought back to life, but I’m not sure yet about the proposed plan. This project, and many others send out a powerful message about the ambition of the North East. Too often we’re forgotten about, with projects that could benefit us never making it out of London. We’re constantly working to improve the region and it’s about time we showed the world the North East we all know and love. There are already so many things to be proud of and significant projects like this seek to raise the profile of the North East.

It seems I’m not the only one with reservations about the plans, which aren’t fully supported by everyone in the region. Many people think the wheel will look cheap, nasty and add nothing to the city whilst others fear the loss of the Ouseburn, seen by many as a unique community.

The project will form the centrepiece of The Giants on the Quayside development, which will include a family entertainment centre filled with trampolines, climbing walls, a skywalk and café. A ‘Giant Sport Deck’ will also be built, featuring a multi-purpose play and sports complex, with covered five-a-side pitches and tennis courts available for public hire, as well as a virtual golf club called The Quayside Golf Club. The development hopes to change the city, creating jobs for residents and attracting thousands of new visitors.

Muckle and Ryder Architecture, both Newcastle based companies, have been appointed to work on the project, as well as Black & White Engineering and Lichfields.

There are also plans for a 12m tall human-shaped structure to be based at the development. A public competition for people to propose designs for ‘The Geordie Giant’ will be revealed later in the year.

The project, which is expected to be open to the public in 2023, is more than just a collection of retail, leisure and entertainment space, it shows the ambition and capability of what we can achieve. The North East has a built environment littered with striking landmarks, great achievements and a rich history, one I’m extremely proud of – it will be interesting to see what this project adds to that?

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk