THE popular annual Christ-mas market in the town centre has been axed due to a ban on trading in Canal Walk.
InSwindon, the town centre management firm, said the future of the festive event, planned to run from December 1 to January 5, was called into question after Swindon Council voted last month to take enforcement action against another of its markets, in Havelock Square, for the same reason.
A spokeswoman for the firm said the council suggested Wharf Green as an alternative location, which is not covered by the ban, however most of the 15 chalet traders said they were no longer interested as there was lower footfall in this area, so the market was called off.
Permanent traders in the town centre are disappointed, claiming that the market increased footfall and trade in the past.
Simon Jackson, InSwindon chief executive, said: “It is with great shame that we have had to come to this decision. “We value the Christmas market as one of our key events in the Christmas campaign and this was a tough decision.
“Other events and activities planned for Christmas will still be taking place to promote use of the town centre and we encourage those visiting to take full advantage of the late night shopping that starts from the November 22.”
The Christmas market has run for the last two years in Canal Walk and was in Wharf Green before that. It was planned to sell produce including mulled wine, traditional sausages and festive gifts, as well as crafts.
A council spokesman said the decision to ban street traders was made four years ago in the interests of town centre businesses, who had complained that some traders were a source of unfair competition and a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
He said: “The position on street trading in Swindon town centre has been plain and clear since that time, in that the only area designated for street trading, which includes markets such as the Christmas market, is Wharf Green.
“This should have been entirely clear to any organisation wishing to organise markets in Swindon town centre. “Wharf Green is where the council hoped the Christmas market would be held this year.
“The council is not against street trading in principle – it recognises that done properly, it can enhance the town centre and bring extra trade to all businesses. It is for this reason that elected members are examining this issue with a view to having a new policy in place by April.”
Ross Mulholland, assistant manager of That’s Entertain-ment in Canal Walk, said: “I think it brings lots of people here and I think it will probably affect business I reckon. It’s a shame and the footfall thing will kind of suck for us because we were kind of banking on that.”
Christina Carvajul, manager of Lush cosmetics store, said: “It brought some excitement to the town as well and I’m a little bit upset, I didn’t realise we weren’t having one.”
Nik Hayward, manager of Swindon Tented Market, said: “It was something a bit nicer for the people of Swindon so I’m really surprised they aren’t going ahead with it.”
Coun Andrew Bennett, vice chairman of the licensing committee, said: “A blanket ban it’s not. Technically there are streets that aren’t consent streets where you may not trade but that doesn’t cover the entirety of the centre of Swindon. There are other places like Wharf Green.”
Coun Peter Heaton-Jones, a member of the licensing committee, added: “The council have been talking to InSwindon about the Christmas market and offered its full support for the event to be held in Wharf Green. “I understand InSwindon were not able to secure the interest of enough potential stallholders, which is a great pity.”