Councillors are set to consider the reintroduction of Bath’s famous Christmas Market, with Covid-secure measures being put in place to ensure the safety of visitors.
The Bath Christmas Market is in its twentieth year, having been cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is ranked in the top 10 in Europe and attracts 400,000 visitors per year, with an estimated spend in the city of £32.5 million in 2019.
A report before Bath & North East Somerset Council’s cabinet, which meets on 23rd June says the council needs to decide whether to proceed with planning and delivery of Bath Christmas Market against the background of uncertainty over the pandemic and variants of concern entering the UK.
It recommends the Bath Christmas Market goes ahead from 25th November to 12th December with an agreement about key gateway decision dates.
These dates at key intervals in the planning, will allow the council time to review current COVID-19 cases, pressures on NHS services and future modelling, to determine whether the market needs to be scaled back or cancelled, in line with national guidance on restrictions.
The recommended dates would also honour the ongoing covenant with the city that the market does not operate or cause disruption to residents in the week leading up to the 25th December on any given year.
A residents’ evening would be held on Wednesday 24th November.
Councillors are also being asked to approve a capital budget of £27,200, funded from revenue, to improvements the chalets which for Covid-safety measures would be reduced this year from 205 to 161.
This would allow more space for visitors to move through the event site during traditionally busy periods
The proposed site would have a similar footprint to 2018/19 with the re-introduction of the areas around Bath Abbey.
Express planning permission is not required this year, due to changes in legislation which allows councils to deliver market events.
Councillor Dine Romero, cabinet member for Children and Young People, Communities and Culture said: “Traditionally The Bath Christmas Market provides a huge boost to our retail, accommodation, hospitality and tourism sectors and this year could play a critical role in helping business recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the past it has also provided a great platform to local charities and community groups. While there have been recent suggestions to locate it in Royal Victoria Park, moving the market there or to the edges of the city centre could spell economic disaster for businesses that have managed to survive till now.
“Operating it this year is not without risk and I am pleased to see there are measures in place to reduce both the risk to public health and the pressure on council budgets should government guidance change due Covid-19.
“In addition, the event is not being marketed internationally and would look to attract more local visitors with provision to help visitors with accessibility requirements.
“Making sure it is also sustainable is important for the council and a sustainability policy specifically written for the Christmas market includes, investing in mains fed electricity points so we can remove the use of fossil fuel on-site and promote sustainable energy solutions.
“An LED light only rule that ensures all lighting used is sustainable and efficient. These actions are another step in our commitment to tackling the climate emergency.”
The report says the Christmas Market is budgeted to be self-funded for the scaled backed 2021/22 market and from 2022/23 it is expected to generate a surplus, which would be reinvested back into future markets and events, as well as providing a sustainable income stream to the council.
Mobility Helpers would be available to provide help to visitors with accessibility requirements and enhance the visitor experience as well as providing a vital role in the event of an incident requiring management of members of the public with limited mobility.
And as well as the usual attractions and retail offer, the council would work in partnership with Bath Business Improvement District and external organisations to support cultural events such as indoor performances, carnival style processions, lantern parades and a festive programme of arts.
Shop fronts would be animated with festive themes.