PLANS to increase security and safety measures at one of Hampshire’s most successful Christmas markets have been drawn up.
More than 300,000 are expected to descend on Winchester for this year’s festivities – with many people travelling from across the country to visit the famous city.
Every year the inner and outer close at Winchester Cathedral is transformed into a winter wonderland as people get into the Christmas spirit and enjoy a bratwurst, try their hand at ice-skating and buy trinkets from any of the 100 chalets.
The market costs £10,000 a day to run – but brings in far more which is then pumped back into preserving the historic cathedral.
Assistant Receiver General, Bob Forrester, and head of operations, Bruce Winton, said plans to tighten safety measures include more security staff as well as increasing CCTV.
They hope the added cameras will ease congestion and help if there was a need to evacuate the area quickly.
Mr Forrester said: “We’re conscious of crowd safety. In previous years there were pinch points.”
He added that a number of meetings have been held during the year with Winchester City Council and Stagecoach to ensure visitor numbers don’t get out of hand.
On one Saturday last year 37 coaches visited the city, causing traffic problems and overcrowding.
That sparked serious concerns that the annual event was getting too big.
But organisers said they were working to ensure that did not happen again despite a decision not to limit coach numbers being agreed.
On a busy Saturday some 3,500 visitors are expected, though Mr Winton is confident those numbers won’t be reached.
“We say we’ll never go across that line and in reality it’s more like 2,200-2,500,” he said. “Every year we’re learning lessons to make it better.”
Added investments have also been made to increase electricity supply to ensure no gas canisters are brought in by traders and each chalet has its own form of emergency lighting.
Mr Forrester said while the market is a money-making exercise, its necessary to ensure the preservation of Winchester’s icon.
“At the end of the day there’s always a profit but all this goes back into the cathedral,” he said. “It costs £10,000 a day. That’s the aim of the Christmas market: to preserve what we do.”