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Gloucestershire Business News

Boost for tourism as ice rink returns to Cheltenham

Visitors and locals are invited to get their skates on once again to create magical memories on the ice at a new rink in Cheltenham.

Plans for the rink - powered by renewable HVO fuel and battery storage - have been given the go-ahead by the borough council's planning committee.

Running from Friday 17 November to Monday 1 January, the Cheltenham ice rink will return to Imperial Gardens - reflecting the town's historic Winter Gardens and indoor roller skating rink that once occupied a site here.

The modern-day version, delivered by leading ice rink operator S3K Group, will be undercover, offering a memorable festive experience in all weathers, for skaters of all ages and abilities.

With capacity for over 100 skaters at a time, relaxed skating sessions for SEND visitors, and discounts for schools and group bookings, the fully wheelchair-accessible ice rink offers a fun activity for everyone.

The ice rink is organised by the Visit Cheltenham team at Cheltenham Borough Council to encourage people to visit the town centre, boosting the economy in the crucial Christmas trading period.

Councillors approved the application at a Planning Committee meeting yesterday (Thursday), noting that the ice rink will provide a tourism boost to the town, having attracted 43,000 skaters in 2021.

Organisers will put in place new measures to reduce the environmental impact of the rink, including the use of HVO, a more sustainable fuel, and battery storage to reduce the noise of the generator.

An additional £3.3m was spent in Cheltenham as a result of the ice rink and associated market in 2021 with two-thirds of visitors saying they ate or drank in local venues and/or spent money in local shops.

Cllr Max Wilkinson, cabinet member for economic development, culture, tourism and wellbeing, said: "The last time we had an ice rink in Cheltenham, more than 43,000 people enjoyed a festive skating experience.

"Thanks to the No Child Left Behind scheme, that included 2,550 tickets given to families in need of extra festive cheer in these difficult times. It's with all that enjoyment in mind that I'm pleased this year's event is on track.

"It's also important to note that because Cheltenham sets higher environmental standards, dirty diesel generators have been ditched in favour of a mobile battery and Stage V generator running on renewable HVO to reduce the carbon footprint of the event."

Helen Mole, head of place marketing and inward investment, said: "The team have worked hard to get to this point and we are really looking forward to bringing the ice rink back to Cheltenham this Christmas.

"It's so important that we all support our town centre, and in-person events like this will boost the Cheltenham economy, in particular the retail and hospitality sectors. The ice rink is fully accessible for wheelchair users, and we will host dedicated SEND and pre-school sessions to make sure that everyone can take part in this brilliant winter activity."

The ice rink will be in place between November and January as part of a bumper programme of festive activities organised by partners in the town, including the official Christmas launch on Thursday 16 November by Cheltenham BID, artisan markets, a Christmas light switch on by the Cheltenham Trust and The Brewery Quarter and the annual pantomimes at the Everyman Theatre and Cheltenham Playhouse.

Tickets for the ice rink will go on sale Monday 25 September at 9am. Book here 

Punchline says: "This is great news for Cheltenham. It was a huge success last year and what's really good about it is it's one of those things that everyone can enjoy."

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