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Families snap up free skating sessions in Bishop’s Stortford town centre

Pre-booked places to skate free in the open air in Bishop’s Stortford town centre this Christmas were snapped up in less than two hours.

The icy treat proved a hot deal with 540 rapid reservations online. That means 180 spaces spread across 18 sessions over three days next week remain for those willing to take their chance and queue.

When East Herts Council first publicised the temporary rink at Charringtons House car park on November 17, it was advertised as “no booking required”, with 50 spots available on a first-come, first-served basis for each session starting on the hour – 45 minutes of skating, 15 minutes changeover.

Stock image
Stock image

While the details on the council’s website have yet to be changed, capacity has been reduced by 20% to 40 slots an hour, 30 of which are pre-bookable online with the other 10 reserved for walk-ins – and on Tuesday night (December 19), two hours after the online system was introduced, all the bookable slots had been signed up.

The skating sessions will run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (December 28-30) from 10am to 4pm.

They are the result of a collaboration between the town and East Herts district councils and Bishop’s Stortford BID (Business Improvement District).

Charringtons House car park
Charringtons House car park

An EHC spokesman explained: “As this is the first time such an event has been run we had no idea how popular it would turn out to be.

“This collaboration between the district council, town council and BID is attempting something new and exciting by offering the public the opportunity to partake in a free, fun and festive activity over the holiday period.

“Originally we opted for a ‘just turn up and skate’ approach, emphasising the goodwill of the event, hoping to encourage public engagement on this empty space.

“However, we have had questions raised about how busy the rink would be and how long people might have to wait in potentially cold weather with children.

“In consultation with the operator about the best way to manage the queues on the day, and taking their feedback into account, we have made a change to the original plan and will now be offering 30 of the 40 spaces as pre-bookable.

“All the pre-bookable slots were booked up within two hours, indicating just how popular this event is going to be. There will be up to 10 walk-in spaces available every session, and we’ve contacted all who have booked asking them to cancel their booking if they find they are unable to attend for any reason, so further spaces may also become available.”

Skates will be provided for use on the synthetic rink although users are welcome to take their own.

Internet service provider Lit Fibre has provided £1,000 towards the £6,800 cost of the initiative, with the balance split between the two councils and the BID.

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