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British government denies London Eye under threat over rent dispute
By MICHAEL McDONOUGH
25 May 2005

LONDON (AP) - The British government on Wednesday denied reports that the London Eye, the giant sightseeing wheel beside the River Thames, risks being removed because of a rent dispute.

The South Bank Centre, a government body that owns the site, is in rent talks with proprietors of the hugely successful tourist attraction, which is jointly owned by British Airways, the Tussauds Group entertainment company and the wheel's architects, Marks Barfield.

Both sides have refused to comment in detail on the talks, but media reports claim the South Bank Centre is seeking a massive rent increase -- from the current 55,000 pounds (US$100,000; euro80,000) a year to 2.5 million pounds (US$4.6 million; euro3.6 million) -- and threatening eviction by July 1.

British lawmakers have expressed concern about the reports, but a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said there was "absolutely no risk of the wheel being removed" as a result of discussions for a 25-year lease.

"Both sides agree it would be unthinkable for the Eye to either close or have to move," the spokesman added.

The South Bank Centre issued a statement earlier this week saying there is "no likelihood" of the London Eye facing eviction on July 1 and that it has "never claimed rent of 2.5 million pounds for itself at any point in these negotiations." Victoria Bailey, a spokeswoman for the SBC, refused to say how much rent was being sought.

The Evening Standard daily on Tuesday published what it claimed was a facsimile of a letter from the SBC's lawyers to the owners of the London Eye asking that they "remove the Wheel and all other items from the premises by July 1, 2005, at the latest."

Responding to the report, a spokeswoman for the SBC said: "The position we set out in the statement is the correct position as it stands. We are negotiating with the Eye company and we very much hope to reach an agreement soon."

In a discussion in the House of Lords about the London Eye, lawmakers on Tuesday expressed concern that losing the wheel would harm the capital's chances of securing the 2012 Olympic Games.

"It is very important that we retain the London Eye, particularly as it is an essential part of our Olympic bid for 2012," said Baroness Gardner of Parkes. "The public, I think, are not just concerned but outraged by the thought that the Eye might be threatened."

The enclosed pods attached to the rim of the London Eye reach a height of 450 feet (135 meters) at the top of the wheel's cycle, offering a sweeping view of central London. It attracted some 3.5 million visitors in 2000, the year it opened, and remains hugely popular.

Operators of the London Eye insist it is not a Ferris wheel because the pods are enclosed, they are positioned on the outside of the wheel and the structure is supported by an A-frame on only one side.
 

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When the Brits, will learn?

ICC already left London on tax disputes and being the Tossauds Group 100% Dubai owned, in the worst case schenarious (for London) the wheel can find a new home, just 7 hours of a BA flight away. :D

Seriously, an increase from 55k to 2.5M???? Are they gone NUTS!!!
 

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Don't worry it's not coming down or moving. The mayor called the SBC centre owner who is demanding an increase a pratt and said that if a settlement wasn't reached a compulsory purchase will be made of the land in dispute.
 
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