St Albans Christmas event masterplan to avoid more ‘disappointing’ festive events

Visitors to the Meraki Christmas festival in Verulamium Park. Picture: DANNY LOO

Visitors to the Meraki Christmas festival in Verulamium Park. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

A long-term master plan for the St Albans Christmas event is being drawn up to avoid more “disappointing” festivities.

St Albans’ Christmas offering has drawn criticism ever since it was established in 2013, which peaked when the long-awaited Meraki Christmas Festival fell flat last December.

Organisers hit numerous stumbling blocks, starting when a small group of disgruntled residents opposed its location on the Water Meadow opposite Westminster Lodge.

The years previous to 2018, run by St Albans district council (SADC), had also racked up a bill of more than £300,000.

Members of the SADC community, environment and sport scrutiny committee have now recommended that the council’s portfolio holder for business and the community, Cllr Salih Gaygusuz, should produce a Christmas events plan for the next three to five years.

This should be created in cooperation with St Albans BID, the Chapter of St Albans Cathedral, and other interested groups - some of which addressed the committee.

Chair of the Abbey Precincts Residents Association, Peter Trevelyan, said it had been the wrong event in the wrong location, and holding it in the Water Meadow conflicted with plans to revitalise the River Ver and improve wildlife.

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Ian Smith spoke on behalf of the residents of Pondwicks Close, a road adjacent to Verulamium Park, close to the festival site.

He said a Christmas Festival or market belonged in the city centre rather than the park.

Martin Goodman, chair of the Abbey Theatre, said Verulamium Park’s Water Meadow should not become an “events meadow”.

The committee’s chair, Cllr Anthony Rowlands, said Christmas events are vital for shops, restaurants and other local businesses: “Unfortunately, the Christmas offering in St Albans this year fell short of expectations and was rather disappointing. Consultation about the events in Verulamium Park was woeful.

“The committee’s view was that we need to have a complete re-think and produce a detailed plan covering the next three to five years.

“That way we should avoid the late decision making which beset the 2018 events and achieve much firmer budgetary control.”

Councillors also said future events should also make use of historic buildings and be cost effective, accessible, family friendly and inter-generational.