BOURNEMOUTH Wheels Festival – which has drawn more than a million visitors to the town over three years – is “very unlikely” to happen in 2017.

Bournemouth council’s three-year commitment to funding the festival has run out without a major investor stepping in to plug the gap.

Jon Weaver, Bournemouth Tourism’s head of marketing and events, said: “This was a brand new concept in 2013 to provide a free wheels-themed festival in the destination that would appeal to a wide audience.

“In its first year, it attracted several hundred thousand festival-goers, which is a real achievement for a brand new event.

“Despite discussions with potential parties to support the festival and looking at alternative ways of raising funds and reducing costs without undermining the quality of the experience expected of the festival, we are at a point where a Wheels Festival in 2017 is very unlikely.”

The council subsidised the event by £325,000 this year, the last year of its financial commitment to the event.

Although sponsors and exhibitors were in place, organisers say they have not been able to secure a “significant commercial investment” in time to allow planning of a festival for next year.

Mr Weaver said he was “looking at all options” to see whether the event could be brought back in future.

He said there was no prospect of cancelling the resort’s biggest event, Bournemouth Air Festival. “The council is fully committed to the Air Festival. It’s a massive event for the town,” he added.

Des Simmons, chairman of Bournemouth Tourism Management Board, said: “To have to let go of the Wheels Festival in 2017 is not something that the board wants to see happen.

“We understood 2016 would be the last year that the council could financially support the festival and it’s looking increasingly challenging to bridge the funding gap.”

Andrew Woodland, chairman of Bournemouth Hotel and Accommodation Association, said the town had a programme of events that attracted more than 1.5m visitors each year.

Paul Clarke, chair of Bournemouth Coastal Business Improvement District (BID), and Lisa Tucker, who chairs the Town Centre BID, said in a joint statement: “Whatever happens, it is hoped Southbourne Wheels Festival fringe event, one of the most successful events supported by the Coastal BID, can continue in a similar format in future years.”