Walcot traders are going to hold their own ‘Winter Walcot Week-End’ in answer to proposals going before a B&NES planning committee on June 1st recommending the annual Christmas Market is granted a week-long extension.
This would mean it lasting for 25 days instead of the usual 18.
Jenny Pollitt of Lane House Arts told me: “We in Walcot have decided to pre-empt the market by holding our own Winter Walcot Weekend which we hope may go some way to encourage visitors and locals to trade in our area. However, this will not – I am sure – be enough to tide us through the main Christmas shopping period.”
Jenny is treasurer of the Walcot Street Trader’s Association and has also made me aware that Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones – the Cabinet member for Economic Development – has already been canvassing traders in the Walcot Street area regarding the possibility of an extension to the annual festive market – this year involving 173 stalls – and centered around Bath Abbey.
In a reply to him she says: “As you know, feelings amongst traders and residents run high on this topic. Whilst those within the market area benefit greatly – bars, restaurants, b and bs, hotels especially – those of us who do not rent a stand or who trade outside the centre of the city, do not benefit.
We see a dramatic drop in footfall and locals actively avoid coming into the centre, preferring to shop elsewhere and even in other towns and cities resulting in poor sales at a time when our sales should be at their best.”
She wonders “if there is anything the Council, Bid and Bath Tourism Plus could do to encourage visitors to explore other areas of Bath during this period and we would welcome further discussion of ideas?
Perhaps a stand could be given over to Walcot/Bartlett Street/Margarets Buildings/Widcombe so that we can advertise our existence to the visitors to the market.”
Jenny has let me see some of the responses to the Council’s request for comment. Among them are calls for the Christmas Market to be put on the Cattle Market site and extend up Walcot Street.
Others talk about the dramatic drop in footfall through the area during the day – as locals avoid the centre of town while the market is running – and ask for a joined-up strategy to benefit all the independent traders in the city ‘including Kingsmead Square, Milsom Place, Bartlett Street, Margaret’s Buildings, Green Street, Walcot and Kingsmead Square.’
It’s going to be a stormy planning meeting! Do let the Bath Newseum know how you feel.