PLANS to expand Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas market to allow for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic have drawn criticism.

Organisers have lodged an application with the city council to increase the footprint of the market, incorporating the Outer Close including around the war memorial and The Paddock – the area immediately north of the Cathedral adjacent to the Old Minster and the Inner Close.

The cathedral has said that the ice rink will not be open this year.

However, the scheme has sparked objections over fears that it could have a negative effect on parts of the city centre.

John Brownsell, of Market Street, said: “The proposals will destroy the peace and tranquillity of the Outer Close so much valued by many in the hurly burly of central Winchester but especially for us at Morley College - the only residents fronting directly on to the Outer Close.

“Constant foot traffic just outside our garden with noise (and smoking) is not what we expect.”

And Steven Partridge, of Colebrook Street, said that previously the cathedral had kept in close contact with its plans, but complained that in recent years this has not happened, which has led to issues over privacy from neighbours.

He added: “Residents here believe we have suffered enough over the years with both necessary and unnecessary disruption.

“The Christmas market is already an emotive subject as Winchester simply cannot cope with such an influx of visitors.

“Other cities, including Bath, Lincoln and Bury St Edmunds have decided to cancel their markets this year and I urge Winchester to follow their lead.”

Rebecca Hiscock, of Paternoster House, Colebrook Street, said: “We already have to tolerate increased noise and traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, every year, throughout the period of the Christmas market. Under this proposal disruption is brought even closer to our residences.”

Councillor Lynda Murphy has now called on the city council to send the application to its planning committee for a decision to be made over concerns raised by those living in Paternoster House about a planned walkway close to the building.

She wrote: “Residents there are concerned that the thousands of people who will use this walkway every day will lead to loss of amenity of their balconies and flats due to noise, loss of privacy and risk of disease transmission (in particular Covid-19).”

The cathedral’s enterprise manager Phillip Holroyd Smith said: “The cathedral has been working closely with partners including Winchester City Council and the BID for many months to create a Christmas market that benefits both the wider business and local communities. We hope to bring a wonderfully engaging, socially distanced and open-air experience that everyone can enjoy in a safe and positive way.”

He added: “We are fortunate that the expansive cathedral grounds enable us to safely space the chalets out over an area close to three times the size of the usual footprint of the market. A new route has been created that safely controls numbers while keeping the experience engaging, comfortable and enjoyable for all visitors. This will also allow visitors to experience areas of the historic grounds that have never been open to the general public before.

“Feedback is always welcome and valued. We’ve heard the concerns raised by some residents and are looking at how we can address these.”