Reigate & Banstead and the Matthews Organisation have issued a joint statement saying they remain committed to planning for Reigate on Ice 2019, following the cancellation of this year’s event.
The Matthews Organisation has held the December ice rink in Priory Park for the last five years, four of them on the same site near Bell Street.
The cancellation came after the council concluded that the ground has become compacted, making it difficult for water to drain and for grass to regrow, and that work is needed before the site can be used again.
An alternative location suggested by the council, behind the tennis courts, was turned down by the Matthews Organisation. The family-run firm has said problems would include vehicle access and a lack of wind protection, with the big top nearly being blown away in a storm when the event was held there in its first year. Also, that year’s event ran at a loss.
The announcement of the cancellation last month – initially described by the Matthews Organisation as being indefinite – was hotly debated on social media, with the Matthews Organisation and the council setting out their points on Facebook.
It looks as though relations are now on a better footing, with the council’s greenspaces team and the Matthews Organisation issuing a joint statement earlier this month:
“We’re all keen to see Reigate on Ice continue as it’s a welcome and popular event in Priory Park’s calendar.
There’s mutual understanding that the usual area for the ice rink can’t be used this year due to the ground compaction, so we’ve been working together to try to find a workable alternative.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we’ve been unable to find a mutually agreeable location this time.
Both parties are feeling positive and remain committed to working together on future events in our parks, including planning for Reigate on Ice 2019.
In the meantime, remedial works will take place over the winter so that the event space is ready for use again next year.”
The condition of the ground has been a matter of comment in previous years, as the grass has sometimes taken months to recover.
Although the Matthews Organisation has to pay for the cost of putting the ground right each year (on top of a hire fee for the park), it’s the council that carries out the work and decides when and how to do it. This year’s repair proved particularly lengthy, with the council announcing a new remedial plan as late as May, as work continued.
Reigate on Ice isn’t the only event to use the Bell Street side of the park, although its stay of around a month is the longest in the calendar.
Many residents on social media have expressed their disappointment at losing the event this year, it having become part of their Christmas celebrations. Others have highlighted the trade that the event brings into the town over the festive period (3 million visits each year according to the council), as well as seasonal jobs.
A free Reigate on Ice firework show on the same day as the Reigate Christmas Fayre has also helped keep visitors in town that evening.
The event supported charities, including a private session for children with brain injuries being treated at the Children’s Trust.
The Matthews Organisation has ruled out using Redhill as an alternative, saying it wouldn’t be financially viable to change the branding and they could end up operating at a loss.
Last month community station Susy Radio hosted a discussion with representatives from the council and The Matthews Organisation: it can be listened to here.