Shoppers festive footfall slip is blamed on absence of ice rink

Christmas lights switch on in the Market Place, Great Yarmouth.The Ice Rink.November 2015.Picture: J

Christmas lights switch on in the Market Place, Great Yarmouth.The Ice Rink.November 2015.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

The absence of an ice rink is being blamed for a slip in footfall in Great Yarmouth over the festive season.

Figures released by the Town Centre Partnership (GYTCP) show an 8pc drop in December 2016, compared to the same time the previous year.

The rink, which turned the Market Place into a winter wonderland in 2015, would have cost almost £100,000, which for some councillors was too expensive.

Town centre manager Jonathan Newman said: “The main contributor to this decline was the absence of the ice rink that drove footfall into the town centre the previous year.

“Despite this, retailers have reported sales on a par or slightly ahead of 2015, particularly the department stores that presented a wider gift offer to consumers.

“The new Santa’s Post Office attraction was visited by over 550 families and forwarded over 800 letters to Father Christmas.”

In 2015, the ice rink saw 11,300 adult, child and group tickets sold over 44 days and it was largely met with praise, but it cost the council £108,546.

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Last September, seven borough councillors voted against bringing the ice rink back, with six in support.

Labour councillor Trevor Wainwright, who voted against, said: “There was no evidence to show it increased anybody’s business other than a few chip stalls. When the ice rink was around big retailers said there was no difference to footfall. The £100,000 rink was a colossal waste of money.”

UKIP councillor Chris Walch was involved in a last ditch attempt to bring some sort of attraction into the town for Christmas, handing out figures for a dual-purpose roller and “ice” rink which would have used a special liquid to give the effect of ice.

He said there was the suggestion of the council purchasing a roller skating rink that become a GYBC capital asset and could be deployed whenever and wherever throughout the borough all year around.

He said: “It would have been more expensive the first year but the rink would have been guaranteed for ten years and by year three we would have broken even.

“It is something which hopefully we can continue to look at this year.”

Conservative council leader Graham Plant said: “The idea of the ice rink was to bring more people into the town centre.

“However members of certain parties went around the retailers asking if the rink had made a difference but they said no and therefore we did not have enough evidence to bring it back.”