The man who made the final decision for the Christmas Market to go ahead has apologised ‘profusely’, and acknowledged that ‘we got it wrong’.
The market was suspended after 24 hours, before being scrapped altogether, after pictures showed huge crowds of people, with little or no social distancing evident.
Councillor Dave Trimble, who is responsible for major events in the city, said advice was sought from the Safety Advisory Group, which includes representatives from public health.
This group made some minor recommendations for changes, but did not advise against the event going ahead.
Councillor Trimble, who represents Lenton and Wollaton East for Labour, said the council over the years had a strong track record when it came to events, but that on this occasion it ‘made a mistake.’
Asked whether it was the wrong decision to open it, he said: “I think hindsight is a wonderful thing, and given what we know now, absolutely we definitely got it wrong, and I’m very very sorry for that.
“Certainly anything else that happens during this time we will certainly not be putting any new events on.
“The market started off quite well, but during the afternoon and early evening it went wrong.
“There were three things that went wrong: there was the food offer – with the restaurants being closed, a lot of people went there at the same time; the opening up of non-essential shops across the country – so there was a lot of pent-up demand there, we had taken the view that with all the other shops being open the market would be a part of that; and the third one was a really selfish group of around 200 people who gathered at the council house, and decided to have a party.
“What we had to do is act as quickly as possible, and we reacted by announcing we wouldn’t be opening it the next day, and quickly after that we decided we would be closing it for the whole duration.”
On the process of how the decision was approved in the first place, Councillor Trimble said: “It goes to a group called the Safety Advisory Group, as far as I’m told it came back with some recommendations on how to manage it, but there was no advice in terms of closing it and not having it.
“Public health are there (at the advisory group), the ambulance are there, there’s quite a range of people. There was no advice not to do it.”
He said although he is not on the licensing committee, as far as he knew the matter had not gone to the committee because operator Mellors had a five-year tender, with a rolling licence to run the market.
Asked whether he shared concerns put forward by shopkeepers and hospitality venues that the market may have increased infection rates, resulting in the city staying in Tier 3 for longer, he said: “Obviously I regret putting it on.
“Our thought process was all the non-essential shops, the whole city was open, Clumber Street, the Victoria Centre, all the shops.
“It was within Government guidelines that said markets and fairs could open, and I’m a big supporter of the hospitality trade in the city, and I would have liked to have been in a place that within the Government guidelines they could have opened.
“One of the reasons we did put it on was to support the local economy and the city after a terrible year.
“The COVID numbers had gone down quite massively, and we had got to the point where we were about the same numbers as local authorities that were in Tier 2, so I accept that things didn’t go right, and I apologise profusely for that.
“I think what we will have to do is wait and see what happens to COVID rates here, and if it has (increased numbers) in the city then I’m very sorry for that indeed.
“We have over many years run great events in the city, we’ve done the Dinosaurs of China, we’ve done international cycle races, the Goose Fair has 400,000 visitors, and we’ve done lots of lots of very good programmes very well.
“On this occasion we got it wrong, and I want to apologise for it.”