Poll: Colchester’s Castle Park to be transformed into Winter Wonderland with ice rink and market

Winter Wonderland ice rink in Winchester, which has partly inspired the Colchester plans.

Winter Wonderland ice rink in Winchester, which has partly inspired the Colchester plans. - Credit: Archant

Central Colchester could be transformed into a Winter Wonderland this Christmas under plans unveiled yesterday – and attract up to 50,000 visitors

Winter Wonderland market in Winchester, which has partly inspired the Colchester plans.

Winter Wonderland market in Winchester, which has partly inspired the Colchester plans. - Credit: Archant

An ice rink, German-style market and fairground as well as Santa’s Grotto could all feature in Castle Park if the proposals set out by Illuminate Design get the go-ahead.

A planning application for the wonderland, which would run from November 26 to January 3, will be decided by Colchester Borough Council in the coming weeks.

Under the plans the site, open from 10am until 10pm Monday to Saturday and until 9pm on Sundays, would be free to enter but with charges for the skating and rides.

Although the times are later than the park’s usual opening hours, access after normal closing time would be restricted to the wonderland.


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Attractions would include a helter-skelter and carousel, and the wonderland would employ an estimated 15 full-time staff to serve the estimated 40-50,000 visitors – which organisers hope will include 40% from outside the borough.

Housed to the east of the castle, in the upper section of the park, organisers have submitted detailed plans of measure to be put in place to avoid any adverse effects on the park such as matting and temporary barriers.

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Ben Payne, event organiser, said he was unable to comment before the council had made a decision.

However he added that two years’ of work had gone into the project and he hoped it would all come to fruition.

In the design and access statement to the application Mr Payne adds: “The area around the castle is one of historical appearance. The idea of placing the ice rink, market and fairground in this area is that it is used to enhance the surrounding area rather than act as any distraction to it.

“The London rinks are very popular with visitors from the Colchester area, and we hope by placing the rink on the doorstep the money spent on trips to London will actually be spent in Colchester.

“In other towns where they have winter markets and rinks the main stores notice a increase in traffic and sales – there is no reason to suggest Colchester would not be the same.

“Tying that to the additional tourism factor we believe this can be of massive benefit to the town both for this year and future years.”

Cousins Entertainment, founded by Olympic gold medallist skater Robin Cousins, will run the temporary ice rink if the plans get the green light.

Tim Young, borough councillor for culture, said: “They are very exciting plans.

“Something like this has been mooted many times and I hope this year we can make it come off.

“There are still some hurdles to overcome but I think it will bring people to the town and park over Christmas – it is another thing for people to do in the festive period.

“I know people flock to London for the ice rink there, and have a wonderful time, and I don’t see why Colchester should miss out.

“It could be a boost for Colchester town centre, and we are very enthusiastic about it.”

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