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City of Lincoln Councillors reject calls to review Christmas market cancellation

Infrastructure costs to run Lincoln Christmas market could have doubled if the event was extended or expanded, councillors have been told.

A scrutiny meeting on Tuesday rejected calls to review the decision to cancel the 40-year-old event.

The call-in by Conservative Councillors Tom Dyer and Rachel Storer asked for a full public apology from leaders for “poor engagement”.

City of Lincoln Council Christmas market call-in. (63024267)
City of Lincoln Council Christmas market call-in. (63024267)

It also wanted the council to review its consultation process and pause the reallocation of funds while consultation was carried out.

Councillor Dyer said: “The decision has been met by both residents and businesses with shock at the lack of public engagement.

“It clearly has been the case that the council has fallen well short of the necessary consultation with local stakeholders.”

Lincoln Christmas Market in 2018 (62364306)
Lincoln Christmas Market in 2018 (62364306)

During the meeting, councillors were told why alternative options – including expanding the market, extending the length of time, ticketing the event and sponsorships – weren’t feasible.

Officer Simon Walters claimed the changes would have put some stallholders off and reduced each stall’s footfall.

He said previous attempts to expand the market around the Cathedral had been tried before, but visitors were reluctant to travel away from the central area.

Meanwhile the council concluded that there were too many entrances to ticket the whole event, while ticketing only the Castle or The Lawn would create a “dangerous” amount of bunching.

Infrastructure costs, which currently total around £750k, would need to be massively expanded due to the need for further public address systems, extra CCTV, stewards and barriers.

City of Lincoln Council Christmas market call-in. (63024262)
City of Lincoln Council Christmas market call-in. (63024262)

“The infrastructure costs could easily double if we started to take it into the city centre because of the sheer size of the footprint that we’d have to protect and get ready for that many people,” he said.

He said if the event was held over a longer period of time, it would impact on local residents, businesses and schools.

He added: “That £750,000 would easily be over a million pounds… that is a significant amount of money and arguably not financially viable because we wouldn’t be able to recover that additional costs.”

Labour Council leader Councillor Ric Metcalfe said the council had a “very good track record of public consultation”, adding: “It’s perfectly reasonable for the authors of this call-in to say well, why not this time?”

He said, however, that there was an exceptional situation where the authority had no achievable options to consult on.

“The council was placed here in an impossible situation, we wanted to go out to consultation, of course we did, why wouldn’t we?

“We do consult on everything else, but just occasionally, there are situations and this was one of those where there was nothing to consult with.”

He said it would have been dishonest to suggest otherwise.

The call-in was eventually voted down by three votes to two.

Following the meeting, Councillors Dyer and Metcalfe both said they were “pleased” the opportunity had been given for an in-depth explanation behind the decision.

He called for all stakeholders to come together to “work out what Lincoln will have as its Christmas offering.”

“The last thing we want to do is for stakeholders to go off in their separate directions and it not be co-ordinated. We need to deliver something that residents, businesses, traders and tourists can call a Christmas offering.”

Councillor Metcalfe said it had been a difficult decision.

“We’ve demonstrated that we gave that very difficult decision a lot of very, very careful thought. We thought about all angles before we finally made the announcement and if there had been any other way of doing it we would have chosen it,” he said.

“The safety advice was so compelling there really was no basis to go out to public consultation.”

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