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EXPERTS have begun dismantling York’s big wheel after it turned for the final time, having carried more than half a million passengers over the past 21 months.

The 53-metre observation wheel, which opened in the Royal York Hotel’s grounds in December 2011, has run out of planning permission after receiving an extension to its original consent earlier this year.

The operators spoke yesterday of their disappointment, and that of the hotel, at the wheel having to leave the ‘ideal location,’ and revealed that it is now set to be moved to another city - possibly somewhere else in Yorkshire.

But John Lowery, operations manager for Wheels Entertainments, the UK arm of wheel owners Dubai-based Freij World Attractions, said it hadn’t ruled out a possible return to York in the future, possibly to a riverside site near Lendal Bridge.

He also claimed that a campaigner against the wheel had recently gone up to one of the 18 members of staff facing redundancy and said they were pleased they were losing their job and the wheel was going.

The wheel was only located at the hotel after a lengthy struggle to find a suitable location.

Plans to site it on land behind York Art Gallery were withdrawn at the last minute in early 2011 after protests from conservationists and local residents, and after York Museums Trust discovered a full bat survey was needed.

The hotel proposals were fiercely opposed by residents of nearby Westgate Apartments, who claimed they would suffer a loss of privacy.

City of York Council has previously said that it wanted “viable, good-quality attractions” in York, but that the planning committee had given a clear indication of its concerns that another extension to permission could lead to the attraction becoming permanent.

York’s first big wheel was sited at the National Railway Museum, attracting 1.2 million visitors, and Mr Lowery said Wheels Entertainments would have considered a return there now, but for the fact the area had since been redeveloped with catering facilities.

He said the wheel dismantling process started on Sunday night after the last rides were taken on Sunday afternoon. Pods were being removed first and the whole process was scheduled to finish by the end of the week, all being well.