PLANS to increase security and safety measures at this year’s Christmas market have been announced.
Following the success of last year, staff at Winchester Cathedral say it is imperative to ensure people’s safety as the number of visitors increases year on year.
Some 300,000 are expected to descend on the inner and outer close from across the country to enjoy a bratwurst, try their hand at ice-skating and buy trinkets from any of the 100 chalets.
Assistant Receiver General, Bob Forrester, and head of operations, Bruce Winton, said plans to tighten safety measures include more SIA registered security staff as well as increasing CCTV.
They hope the added cameras will ease congestion and help with any possible evacuation needs and have defended plans to reintroduce the main entrance at the narrow side passage.
Mr Winton said: “If you’re too busy people can’t get to the chalets, the traders lose money and then they won’t come back next year. The primary entrance is a narrow passage but it does allow us to regulate the amount of people. It’s much safer and it’s better to put a temporary stop in there and slow the number of people coming in should we need to. We do want to make sure it’s as safe as possible for everybody.
“We’re using it to monitor whether we have got any excess build up so we have removed chalets along the outer wall. As much as possible we’re trying to ease the flow of it. It allows us to pre-empt the build-up.”
Mr Forrester said: “Were accurately conscious of crowd safety. In previous years there were pinch points and it was to relieve this pinch points from the Inner Close. That will happen again this year.”
Mr Forrester said they have held a number of meetings throughout the year with Winchester City Council and Stagecoach to ensure numbers don’t get out of hand.
On one Saturday last year some 37 coaches visited the city but both Mr Forrester and Mr Winton said they were working closely to ensure that did not happen again.
Mr Winton said: “We had a discussion with the council about whether we should limit the number of coaches but the collective was that we shouldn’t do that because they might come anyway. This way we know how many are actually coming. We try to schedule no more than three coaches at any one time. We work very hard with the groups and tell them to phone us if they’re running late.”
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; that’s a good 1,200 below,” he said. “Every year we’re learning lessons to make it better.
“When we got busy in the past we got extremely busy but we have encouraged people to spread their visits apart so we don’t quite reach those peaks.”
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 to run,” he said. “It costs £10,000 a day. That’s the aim of the Christmas market: to preserve what we do.”