Councillors reject the return of Great Yarmouth’s ice rink

Christmas lights switch on in the Market Place, Great Yarmouth.The Ice Rink.November 2015.Picture: J

Christmas lights switch on in the Market Place, Great Yarmouth.The Ice Rink.November 2015.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

By just one vote, the decision was made not to bring back the town centre ice rink.

The rink which helped turn Great Yarmouth town centre into a winter wonderland last year would have cost almost £100,000 for another year, which for some councillors was too expensive, causing them to reject the event.

Last year's rink came as part of a package of town centre events, which had the aim of increasing footfall. And council officers found footfall did increase while the ice rink was in town.

It saw 11,300 adult, child and group tickets sold over 44 days, and it was largely met with praise, but it cost the council £108,546.

And for this year, councillors on the economic development committee voted not to use £92,500 from a one-off reserve pot to bring the rink back this Christmas.

A report seen by councillors said feedback about the rink was positive. It said comments included: 'It was a success, people were loving it and all ages were using it and others were standing and watching the skaters. It was a welcome diversion and uplift for Yarmouth Town Centre and for a change'.

But an increase in footfall may not have led to more people shopping. The report said: 'It has been harder to translate this footfall increase into retail spend. It was disappointing to note the lack of engagement from some traders to take the opportunity to draw customers into shop. For example many traders did not open in line with the ice rink evening opening times where there was a clear increase in footfall into the town centre.'

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Before councillors voted, committee chairman and Cllr Barry Coleman gave a summary of the event and issues that had been discussed since, including feedback from traders.

He said if there were concerns about how much it would cost, councillors could look at raising ticket prices.

However, Labour leader Cllr Trevor Wainwright was against bringing the rink back. He said: 'I'm totally and utterly opposed to it.'

He added the rink was 'a total waste of tax payers money. Most people on the estates could not have afford to use it.'

Cllr Michael Jeal added he could not support it while people in the borough were relying on foodbanks.

UKIP leader Kay Grey suggested looking at other options, such as seeing if Retroskate could be involved in an outside rollerskating rink.

However, Tory Cllr Charles Reynolds was supportive. He said: 'As a council we don't seem to do one or two things too well, but what we can do is provide and atmosphere of pleasure. And I'll tell you something, I didn't go on it but I visited the town centre on many occasions in that period and to me the feeling was the first time in years there was a good feeling.'

Seven councillors voted against bringing the ice rink back, with six voting for it.

• What do you think? Write to Letters at The Mercury, 169 King Street, Great Yarmouth, NR30 2PA or email anne.edwards@archant.co.uk

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