Big wheel 'bullied out' of Lincoln Christmas Market by hike in fees
The big wheel fairground ride will be absent from Lincoln Christmas Market after plans to raise pitch charges were given the go-ahead.
The City of Lincoln Council's executive committee has agreed changes bumping up the bill for the fairground in Westgate by 93 per cent.
In 2011 the pitch cost £6,900. This year it will cost £13,350 and operator John Armitage feels "bullied" out.
"We have always turned out and it is a landmark for the city. I just feel I'm being bullied by the council with a 93 per cent increase," said Mr Armitage, who has been involved in the market since 1982.
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"If this rise stays then I'll not come. We don't just turn up with a van. I've got the expense of lorries, cranes and three days getting it up and down.
"When the market was cancelled through snow it cost me £10,000 to put it up and take it down and I did not seek compensation from the council.
"I'll have no problem at all getting business if I don't come. I do feel very let down."
The market made a £113,000 loss last year and the stall price changes are part of a plan to make the event break-even.
The rates for a pitch in Westgate were set a long time ago and the council says they "have no basis or rationale".
If the fairground was not present it could host 15 stalls in Westgate, generating £13,500.
Kate Ellis, lead officer examining the proposed market changes, said they are not trying to discourage fair rides.
"That part of the Christmas Market is really important to us," she said. "The big wheel has become an icon. However, we need some consistency in the way we charge for it. We are not trying to say we don't want it.
"It is a significant rise and I'm not going to deny that. It is a substantial increase.
"The exercise we have gone through is to bring the charges in line with the rest.
"We have only pushed the prices of some stalls up by one per cent as we recognise the economic difficulties.
"We understand the concerns held by Mr Armitage and we are willing to talk to him."
The big wheel rises high above the castle walls and provides visitors with a view of the market and far beyond.
Jacqueline Penning, from Lincoln, who has been going to the Christmas Market for years, said: "I don't see the appeal of the big wheel. If anything it detracts from the arts and crafts stalls.
"The queues are horrendous and having less fairground rides might help. The rides go against the traditional Christmas Market feel."