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Changes planned to Stratford’s Victorian Christmas market to cut congestion and overcrowding

THIS year’s Victorian Christmas market in Stratford could be changed to avoid the traffic congestion and overcrowding seen at last December’s event.

Instead of a four-day market – starting on the Thursday and running to the Sunday – the 2024 festive market could take place over two weekends.

Stratford District Council’s cabinet will consider the changes when it meets next Monday (4th March) following anger from residents and workers who suffered long delays as thousands of people descended on the town between 7th and 10th December 2023.

It has been estimated that more than 200,000 people visited the market’s 320 stalls, making it the country’s biggest Christmas market. Almost 19,000 cars used the town car parks during the four days – that’s about 9,000 more than a normal, four-day period in the run-up to Christmas.

Shoppers in Bridge Street at the Stratford Victorian Christmas Market. Photo: Mark Williamson
Shoppers in Bridge Street at the Stratford Victorian Christmas Market. Photo: Mark Williamson

As reported by the Herald at the time, motorists, residents and business owners described the traffic organisation of the event as chaotic and called for a rethink about how the town balanced the Christmas shoppers with the need for people to go about their everyday lives.

A report due to be considered by cabinet acknowledges there were problems. It states that, following the 2023 event, a number of issues were raised, including:

- Overcrowding, especially on the Saturday – the crowds were at least 12 people deep for the whole length of the market

- Excessive noise from the funfair

- Traffic movement congestion with potential issues for access for emergency vehicles

- Electronic car parking signs not working in real time

- Insufficient public toilet provision with very long queues

- The market was impassable for disabled people and those with mobility issues

The report goes on to note that cancelling future events would be costly because of its contract with market operators, LSD. Instead, both the district and town council are suggesting changes, which LSD is reported to have agreed to.

As well as splitting the event over two weekends, the proposals would also see:

- A reduction in the number of stalls

- A new layout for the market with more spacing where practicable

- No funfair or stage

- No stalls in Wood Street and Union Street, which would remain open

- A revised traffic management plan, with potential for more Park and Ride provision and the use of additional car parks, such as the Stratford Racecourse

- Road closures would be limited to potentially Bridge Street and Waterside

The report adds: ‘Whilst there is no guarantee that this will reduce the number of visitors, it is felt that limiting the number of stalls, revising the layout, and having two Saturdays will mitigate some of the concerns raised.

‘Additional benefits of this would be no disruption to residents or traffic flows during the week.’

Any changes agreed by SDC would need to be agreed by Stratford Town Council.

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