Christmas market could come to Sidmouth

P3387-52-09TI Sidmouth christmas lights.; photo Terry Ife

P3387-52-09TI Sidmouth christmas lights.; photo Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Professionals could be coming to deliver a Christmas market worthy of Sidmouth next year – but business leaders are adamant that control should remain in the town.

Councillor John Rayson put the idea of festive traders back on the table, saying that they could pave the way for a regular raft of stalls in Blackmore Gardens or Market Place.

Town clerk Christopher Holland said the setup had to be got right first time – and revealed that a business dedicated to organising Christmas markets had already approached him.

The council would then be able to stipulate what the traders could sell to ensure it remains a ‘quality’ market.

Mr Holland said a Christmas market could be possible as early as next year.

Cllr Rayson laid out an ambitious vision of demolishing the town centre’s ‘tired’ market building, moving the toilets underground and replacing it with a performing arts space.

Alternatively, he said, a market building with other shops and facilities could be built at the park and ride that has been touted to be built at Stowford.

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Cllr Rayson said the traffic from a pannier market there could make the parking facility more viable, improve public transport and bring more visitors into the town.

His bolder ideas were beyond the remit of the town council’s tourism and economy committee meeting, but members welcomed his calls for a regular market.

Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce has previously raised concerns about the impact of a market on existing businesses, but spokesman Richard Eley said the body is open-minded – as long as the town council retains complete control.

“It certainly shouldn’t be left to the district council,” he said. “We are vehemently opposed to that.”

Chamber chairman Mel Gater added: “It’s not something we can do by ourselves but perhaps we can be the instigators.”

Cllr Stuart Hughes suggested that someone from the business should come to a future meeting to discuss what would be possible.

Members agreed that Mr Holland should begin discussions with the professionals.