ARTS organisations and traders have said they are disappointed that there will be no road closures for Oxford’s Christmas celebrations.
A three-day road closure of St Giles last year enabled Oxford City Council to hold a Christmas market and lantern parade, drawing in 100,000 visitors and giving a £1.8m boost to the economy.
But the council announced on Thursday that it would not be closing any roads this year following complaints from residents, businesses and city workers about the inconvenience it caused.
The authority said there will still be celebrations from Friday to Sunday, November 21 to 23.
City council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said: “There will be a three-day festival but without a road closure. We are in the very early stages of planning.”
Yesterday Pegasus artistic director Jonathan Lloyd said: “All of us at Pegasus are disappointed about the proposals to remove the lantern parade and fair from this year’s Christmas Light Festival. Last year’s parade provided a fantastic focal point for the festival, involving hundreds of local schoolchildren, and attracting new audiences. It created a wonderful, communal, carnival-like atmosphere in the run-up to Christmas. That would be difficult to recreate if the festival is dispersed through various venues.”
Amanda Coombs, general manager at St Giles Cafe, said: “It is really disappointing. It attracts lots of people through the city. In terms of business the road closure can affect our deliveries but for three days it brings more people, more footfall into Oxford and it benefits us.”
Jo Ross, director at Oxford Contemporary Music, which organised the programme of music at last year’s event, said: “I think last year was such a fantastic year for Oxford generally for Christmas and that event contributed to it enormously.
“What the events team at the city council managed to do is transform it into something that would attract people outside the city but give residents a sense of celebration around that.”
Prof Andrew Parker, principal bursar of St John’s College in St Giles, said: “The city’s analysis of the last Christmas Lights Festival has revealed the high costs of road closures in St Giles, both economically and in terms of traffic disruption.
“We hope that some other way can be found to retain the lantern walk.”