A BIG wheel which could have brought millions pouring into the city's tourist economy will not come to York this year.

Organisers World Tourist Attractions revealed today they had finally run out of time in their bid to bring a giant observation wheel to the city in 2005.

But they also confirmed that they do intend to come next Easter - to a site at the National Railway Museum.

From a site there, people on the wheel would enjoy panoramic views across the city and along the River Ouse, as well as a bird's eye view of trains such as the Flying Scotsman pulling out of the nearby railway station.

If it proves to be a success, the "York Eye" could even become a permanent attraction for residents and visitors alike.

World Tourist Attractions boss Elliott Hall said it was getting too late in the summer season now to attempt to construct the wheel this year.

It made sense to construct the wheel in time for the start of the next tourism season, Easter 2006.

He said it was likely a garden area towards the front of the museum would be selected as the best site.

The museum's head of fundraising, Jon Ingham, said there was still a long way to go, including the submission of a planning application to City of York Council.

But he said: "We are very upbeat about it. We would be delighted if it could be here, helping to bring hundreds of thousands of extra visitors to the museum and to the city."

WTA's first choice site, Tower Gardens near Skeldergate Bridge, met with a storm of opposition earlier this year from local residents, conservationists and other organisations, leading to WTA withdrawing the application just before planners were due to consider it.

But there are hopes that an application for the Leeman Road museum site would not meet with the same level of opposition.

York tourism boss Gillian Cruddas said there were some residents who did not feel a wheel would be appropriate or in keeping with the traditions of an historic city such as York, but the Leeman Road site, further away from the historic heart of the city, could be a "compromise solution".

Asked what a big wheel could mean to tourism in York, she said: "It could be another hook to attract people to the city, as it faces strong competition from other cities and European short-break destinations."

She could not put a figure on how much extra revenue it might mean for York's tourism dependent businesses, but said the total economic benefit of tourism was calculated at £300 million.

She revealed that the city's tourist information centres had revealed a number of calls from people wanting to visit the city to go on the wheel, after seeing on television that one was planned.

Mr Hall said he understood that shops in the vicinity of a big wheel erected for four months in Manchester by WTA had enjoyed a boost to trade, and were now pressing to get it back.

Updated: 09:56 Wednesday, July 06, 2005