Go-ahead for Cheltenham ice rink if COVID-19 safety measures allow

Exciting plans to bring an ice rink and expanded Christmas Market to Cheltenham this winter were given the go-ahead today (May 28).

Cheltenham Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously approved Cheltenham BID’s plans this morning.

The ice rink will be sited on Imperial Gardens, in front of the Queen’s Hotel, and the Christmas Market will be expanded on to the pavements at the Long Gardens and on either side of The Promenade close to the ice rink.

The festive experience will be further enhanced with Cheltenham Trust giving a Christmas theme to the outdoor Imperial Garden Bar at Cheltenham Town Hall.

BID Director Kevan Blackadder said: “We are delighted that we have been given the go-ahead to improve Cheltenham as a Christmas destination, which will be so important on the back of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are aware that we will have to take further advice as to whether it will be safe to go-ahead with the ice rink with social distancing measures still likely to be in place. If that means it will be unsafe to proceed, we now know that we will be able to bring this eagerly-awaited attraction to the town next year.”

The ice rink operators will be 11th Hour, who have run successful rinks across the country, including Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland last winter.

Like the Cardiff rink, the Cheltenham rink will be covered and so will be the only one in Gloucestershire to offer skating whatever the weather. The rink will have glass sides and a transparent roof.

Cheltenham BID will take over responsibility for running the Christmas Market from the borough council for the first time this year. The BID was keen to increase the size of the market to attract a wider range and higher quality of traders

After circulating an expression of interest, it has appointed a different operator, Market Place, to run the market in the new areas approved by councillors today. Market Place set up and developed famous Christmas Markets in other towns and cities across the UK including Glasgow, Newcastle, Belfast, Bath and Exeter.

The market on the pedestrianised Promenade will be run by Cotswold Markets, the popular local operator, which already runs the twice-monthly Farmers Market and monthly Craft Market on the same site.

Planning committee member Councillor Rowena Hay said at the meeting: “This is incredibly important as part of our recovery strategy. The new market will link not only different parts of The Promenade but also link Montpellier to the town centre.

“The ice rink will have minimal impact on Imperial Gardens, as it only uses a small part of the gardens.”

Committee chairman Councillor Paul Baker said: “If you go to Bath, their Christmas Market is so impressive. I congratulate Cheltenham BID on upping our game as we need to compete not only with Gloucester but also with Bristol and Bath.”

Cheltenham Borough Council’s planning committee approved the BID’s plans for an ice rink in Imperial Gardens at a meeting last November.

However, due to on-going work at The Quadrangle, which is undergoing a multi-million-pound refurbishment, the original site planned for the rink within the gardens was not available, which led to the plans being reconsidered today.

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