A London Eye-style wheel at Camden Lock has won approval from councillors despite being dubbed “tasteless” by critics who fear it will turn the area into a “theme park”.
The borough’s planning committee greenlit Labtech’s five-year plan for the observation structure in a bid to draw in more families and trade, but said the scheme should be reviewed after a year, and again after two years.
The proposed “heritage wheel” is closer in height to Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, with the London Eye on the South Bank hitting 135 metres.
Labtech also wants to transform Camden Lock with a new exhibition space at East Vaults, a jetty at Dead Drop Basin, and more shops at West Yard.
Council planners said the scheme would “support the markets in terms of diversification and refurbishment of historic buildings”.
But campaigners has urged them to reject the plans.
Resident Steven Edery said: “I do not see how anyone can claim it is in keeping with the surrounding area. It will make Camden Lock a permanent theme park.”
He said locals are concerned about increased anti-social behaviour and crime and said extra visitors would put a strain on an area that is “already extremely busy”, attracting 27 million people a year.
Residents also oppose diesel-powered boats and Edery said people would have to close their windows on summer days.
“It’s very unpleasant,” he added. “We have a high degree of scepticism that this will be a temporary application.”
Natalie Davies, from Gerald Eve, agents for Labtech, told the committee the wheel would bring more families in and people have “asked for more experiences”.
She said the wheel “really is temporary in nature”, adding: “The intention is to increase footfall. This is about really bringing Camden to the fore, to help traders, to help the high street and the town centre.”
Historic England said the wheel will “affect the significance and setting of heritage assets in the immediate vicinity of the site. This is due to its height, bulk, scale and design, which is in clear contrast to the solidity of the surrounding industrial architecture.”
Other objectors include the Camden Railway Trust and the Greater London Industrial Archaeological Society.
Camden Residents Against the Wheel said they have a right to privacy: “People will be able to look into the homes of so many residents.
“Imagine having to leave your curtains pulled all day and night to stop tourists from peering into your window.”
One resident told the committee the wheel would “invite people to view into homes” and could be particularly intrusive in winter when lights might be on.
Ward councillor Patricia Callaghan said the wheel would be “at best unsightly and at worst tactless, tasteless and incongruous”.
She said the market owners have done a wonderful job to date “but this is a step too far. It’s not Neverland, it’s lovely as it is.”
She also wanted to know where all the extra visitors would go as the area is so busy.
“In 29 years on the council, I’ve never had as many objectors as I had to this wheel.”
Sam Estop, LabTech’s cultural and educational expert, said: “This is part of Camden’s culture and heritage.”
He believes the wheel will “reinvigorate the vitality and character of Camden Lock Market, opening up Dead Drop Basin for the first time”.
He said it had extensive support from 170 groups and people locally and would see “visitors, residents and local schoolchildren visit areas they never have before and learn about the treasure of the canals”.
Shiri Kraus, who runs the Black Cow restaurant at Hawley Wharf, said: “I strongly believe the new exhibition spaces and the heritage wheel would be like a living museum, and attract new family visitors who would benefit from learning about Camden Market’s history.”
She said the observation wheel would “let people view Camden Market from a different angle as well as get a high view of Regent’s Canal and the London skyline”.
Tom Lionetti-Maguire, who runs the Tomb Raider attraction in the market, said: “People want experiences and shared moments. If Camden is to maintain its place as a world-class destination, it has to grow with the times. To suggest it is ‘already full’ and ‘should not change’ is to doom it to fail.”
He added: “Camden Market is a symbol of change and of the ever-evolving face of London and Londoners. It is not a museum to be trapped in a snow globe.”
Cllr Lloyd Hatton wanted details about a travel plan and said it was well documented that Camden Town station is already very busy, especially at weekends.
Labtech said there would be one-way flows of people in busy areas and a strong security team at the market and an extensive management plan.
The scheme will be considered by the Mayor of London.