A GIANT ‘Blackburn Eye’ will be the dramatic centrepiece of the town’s Christmas decorations, the Lancashire Telegraph can reveal.

Standing at more than 100ft high, the largest portable wheel in the country will be hoisted into place in the town centre in early December.

Council bosses and traders said the attraction, called the World’s Fair Wheel, will bring much-needed shoppers into town over the festive period, and will be an improvement from last year’s main event, a much-criticised “igloo” tent outside the town hall.

Coun Alan Cottam, in charge of regeneration at Blackburn with Darwen council, said the “spectacular Eye” would bring families into town.

He said: “It’s something a bit different that we’ve not done before.”

The wheel, which has 25 “gondolas” each holding six people, will arrive in Blackburn in five 60ft long articulated lorries and will be assembled by a crane on King William Street next to Town Hall Street.

Blackburn businesswoman Margo Grimshaw said she thought it was “an excellent idea” that would rival the London Eye and similar attractions elsewhere.

She said: “It’s fantastic and just the sort of thing we need to bring more people into the town.

"I’ve been on the London Eye and a similar one in Manchester and in Birmingham and they are great.

“In fact I wouldn’t mind being the first one to go on - and I’m afraid of heights!”

It is expected to start turning on December 10, in time to give a boost to shops in the busiest two weeks before Christmas.

Bosses said the cost to the council of hiring the wheel had not been finalised as it depended on possible sponsorship being found and the number of users, who would pay £1 per ride.

The 20-year-old wheel has recently been on display at Caernarfon Castle in Wales, and a similar model was used in Liverpool.

It is around two-thirds the size of the permanent Eye in Manchester.

Its owner, Manchester-based Jan De Koning, said the wheel would add an “instant tourist attraction” to the town centre and provide a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.

Mr De Koning said: “It’s amazing how far you can see from up there. It will be a very popular attraction.”

As well as the wheel, which will be taken down on January 3, Christmas-themed food stalls will also be set up.

Fleming Square hairdresser Jeff Stone said: “It’s a fabulous idea, and shows some common sense from the people in charge of the town for a change.”

Jeweller Phil Ainsworth, of the town centre marketing committee, welcomed the plans - but said the location could have been better chosen.

He said: “It’s good that Blackburn are doing something different, but I think it would have been better somewhere like at the top of Church Street, which would give a better view of the Cathedral area and down towards Darwen.”

Labour leader Kate Hollern said: “Anything that will help boost business would be extremely welcome.

"It has been a terrible year for some, particularly in the market.”

Council leader Mike Lee said: “I think it’s something a little bit different and that it will bring lots more people into the town centre.”