- Lincoln was home to the oldest Christmas market in England, founded in 1982
- Labour councillors worried that visitor numbers posed an overcrowding risk
- 320,000 people flocked to the market last year, generating around £15 million
It was England’s oldest Christmas market – a four-day extravaganza creating a festive wonderland attracting up to 300,000 people each year.
But while the streets of many cities were bustling at the weekend, Lincoln was eerily quiet.
The annual spectacle begun in 1982 was cancelled by the city’s Labour-run council as it had become too popular, causing a ‘safety risk’.
Last year 320,000 people flocked to the market, generating an estimated £15million for the city’s economy.
But, as businesses basked in the bumper success, Labour councillors said the event had become a ‘risk to public safety’.
The annual spectacle begun in 1982 was cancelled by the city’s Labour-run council as it had become too popular, causing a ‘safety risk’
Labour councillors said the event had become a ‘risk to public safety’, given that the number of visitors was posing an overcrowding concern
Claire Taylor, 55, who runs Top To Bottom Accessories in the central Steep Hill, said: ‘This is just another kick in the teeth’
After a last-ditch motion to revive the market was rejected, Labour mayor Biff Bean spent the weekend on a civic visit to Lincoln’s twin town Neustadt, Germany. He was believed to have enjoyed a tour of the festive market there.
Lincoln’s business owners have slammed the decision to axe the event. Rachel Whittaker, who runs a photography studio in the Uphill area, said: ‘It is so sad, people can’t believe it, they’re astonished.
‘It’s bizarre. Other places would fall over themselves to have a December weekend where hundreds of thousands of people are walking around your city, eating, drinking, shopping, having a brilliant time – and spending their money.
‘And we are saying we don’t want that? It makes no sense. This is the very thing that makes Lincoln so special at Christmas.’
Claire Taylor, 55, who runs Top To Bottom Accessories in the central Steep Hill, said: ‘Footfall is declining in high streets everywhere. Local independent businesses have really struggled over the last few years. Now this is just another kick in the teeth.’
The decision to shut the market, which spread out across streets and squares around the city’s famed cathedral, was taken in February after officials said visitor numbers were ballooning beyond their control.
Options, including ticketing and spreading stalls out into more streets, were rejected.
Karl McCartney, Lincoln’s Tory MP, said: ‘It’s absolutely outrageous, it is cultural and economic vandalism.
‘The financial pain this will inflict on local businesses and charities will be catastrophic. It is real-life nightmare before Christmas stuff.’
He added that some overcrowding had marred last year’s event but that officials should have worked on resolving this problem instead of cancelling the whole event.
‘No one in their right mind could think ending a 40-year-old Christmas tradition like this is the correct thing to do,’ added Mr McCartney.
The council said it acted after a safety review of the 2022 event with the police, fire and ambulance services. A spokesman said it was not possible to find an alternative ‘which was practically or financially feasible’.
Ric Metcalfe, leader of the city council, said Mr Bean’s visit to Germany had helped to strengthen civic ties.