IT COULD be one of the biggest Christmas presents ever – or one of the most unwanted.

Controversial plans to build a new big wheel on the banks of the River Ouse could be tabled within weeks, the man behind the scheme has announced.

World Tourist Attractions (WTA), which also ran the old wheel beside the National Railway Museum (NRM), has been working with City of York Council on a detailed planning application for the site, next to the Park Inn Hotel, in North Street.

The firm is still fine-tuning its proposals, but hopes to complete its application soon.

Chief executive Nigel Ward said: “I hope we can get it in before Christmas, but it will depend on how quickly we finish it.”

Plans for a riverside location for the attraction have proved controversial, with conservation groups opposing the idea. As reported in The Press last week, it has also caused a split within the council.

Leader Andrew Waller has voiced concerns, but the authority’s top leisure official Charlie Croft has supported the proposal.

The council could make tens of thousands of pounds by allowing WTA to use the riverside gardens, which were donated to the city by Rowntree’s in 1959. Coun Waller told The Press: “It’s a very small location in a garden area and I think there are concerns about its proximity to the city’s flood defences and the historic church in North Street.”

He said he understood why people in the industry wanted to be in York, but said: “I think there may be other sites where it might fit in better.” Mr Ward, though, said the response had generally been good.

He said: “It seems to have been positive, and we are pressing on.”

A riverside location, near Clifford’s Tower, was mooted for the original wheel, but was opposed by the council.

WTA then teamed up with the NRM instead, but planning permission for the old site was due to run out soon and the wheel was dismantled and moved abroad last month.

1950s plan for ‘Florence of the North’

A DELVE into The Press’s archives gives an intriguing glimpse into “what might have been” in North Street.

Half a century ago, the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust donated a patch of land to the city, hoping to spark a rejuvenation of York’s riverside.

The land was the site of one of Rowntree’s old factories, but the firm turned it into a garden for city residents.

William Wallace, chairman of the trust, handed over the deed to the Lord Mayor of York, Coun AL Philipson, in a ceremony at the Mansion House on April 25, 1959. He said cities such as London, Paris and Florence were centred on their rivers and York, as one of “the world’s choice cities” could be likewise, reported the following day’s Yorkshire Evening Press.

But, he said: “A great deal of the riverside in the city’s centre is really not worthy of the city’s beauty and renown.”

Rowntree’s Cocoa Works Magazine wrote: “Perhaps the donors’ lead would be followed by others, so that, ultimately, a whole stretch of the river might become opened to the public in this way.”

Ten years later, the Viking Hotel was built and the idea of an open bank quashed.