Christmas ice rink, market and 36 metre high wheel approved
Hannah Brown Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Archant
The North Pole has been given the go-ahead to hold its festive fair in Cambridge this year with an ice rink, a Christmas market and a 36 metre high wheel.
The event, which will take place on Parker’s Piece, is due to open on November 19, and continue until January 3, 2022.
Alongside the temporary ice rink and Big Wheel, there is also due to be an ice slide, as well as other rides, and food and drink stalls.
Planning permission for the event was only granted yesterday (November 3), at a Cambridge City Council planning committee meeting.
Although approval has been granted for this year’s event to take place, councillors did not grant permission for the next four years as requested, after concerns were raised over the impact the annual event has on the park.
Over 50 objections were submitted to the council raising concerns over the long term impact the event has on Parker’s Piece, as well as the “disturbance” caused by the event to those living nearby.
One objector said: “I visit Parker’s Piece nearly everyday for exercise and it upsets me to see how a large part of the park is permanently damaged by the North Pole ice rink and the funfair stalls that go with it.
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“It should be a space used for playing games, having picnics, walking and running, it should be a public space.
“Now half the park has been commandeered by a private company, who occupy it for several months over the winter and make it unusable the rest of the year.
“After the ice rink has been removed there is mud and weeds instead of grass, and this ugly mess that doesn’t heal over the summer.
“This year it has been left for more than a year and is still unusable.
“Sport in the park is pushed into the limited grassed space remaining, which gets overused in consequence.”
Speaking at the planning meeting, a representative of the applicant, Arena Event Services, said the Christmas event had been taking place in some form since 2007, run by different organisations.
He said it was the current organiser’s “ambition” to improve the event, not just for customers, but to improve its environmental impact as well, explaining that this year the generator running the ice rink will be powered by biofuel.
In response to the concerns that had been raised prior to the meeting, the applicant had submitted further information to try and address some of the issues raised.
The rides planned to be on offer were adapted to remove the “thrill rides” and to ‘focus on the family friendly experience by offering traditional rides’.
The applicant also said it would increase its budget for reinstatement work for damaged grass, to “ensure” the work is done to the correct standard.
The footprint of the planned event was also reduced from what was originally proposed.
Speaking at the meeting, two of the Market ward councillors, Councillor Katie Porrer and Councillor Tim Bick, said that while they were happy amendments had been made, there were still issues of concern for them.
Cllr Porrer highlighted to the committee that while planning permission had yet to be granted, preliminary works were already underway at the park. She asked for the impact this has on those living nearby to see works taking place before it has come before the committee, to be considered.
Cllr Bick also highlighted the potential impact the event could have in its current location on future tree planting planned by the city council.
The two councillors asked for the committee to add a condition for approval to only be given for one year, so that the event could go ahead this year, but would allow time for potential changes to be made.
Cllr Bick said: “I am aware that the committee, like Cllr Porrer and myself, will not want to jeopardise any event going forward this winter, so I hope that along with your approval, conditions can be used to adjust it as much as it can be, within the parameters of what’s in front of you.
“I would respectfully like to ask the committee to add a further condition, to make this approval for one year only.”
He added: “It accepts pragmatically that the event should go ahead this year and avoids disappointing people who are looking forward to it, but it provides an earlier review than a four year permission would allow.”
In the committee debate, Councillor Katie Thornburrow raised questions over the impact deliveries of biofuel to the site will have. She also said she would “much prefer” for the event to be powered by the city council’s mains electricity supply if it was viable in the future, recognising that it was found to not be possible to power the observation wheel in the summer in this way.
Councillor Dave Baigent said he thought it was a good idea to try using biofuel, to see if it will work well to power the event.
He added that he would be in favour of granting permission for one year only, so that further discussions could be had about how the site will be powered, and whether its location can be moved within the park.
Cllr Baigent did highlight his view of the importance of the event, he said: “I think it really adds to what Cambridge is, it really adds to the festive season.”
Councillor Martin Smart, chair of the committee, said he was not in support of only granting permission for one year.
He said that while he was not in favour of “screaming” personally, noise and damage to the grass and then its recovery, is part of the “nature” of the event.
He said: “It’s been there every year for the last 14 years, there’s no reason to change that, if anything it will be better going forward than it has been in recent years.”
The majority of the committee councillors approved the additional condition to only grant permission for one year. The amended plans were then unanimously supported by the committee.