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Christmas fair accused of 'stealing' business from local shops in Ipswich

The Christmas marquee in Ipswich is attracting shoppers. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A Christmas craft fair put on by Ipswich Borough Council has been accused of "stealing Christmas" from local retailers.

The fair, which is run by a company in London, is in the centre of Ipswich for the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

The council says it was brought in because it was the type of event the public had called for, but businesses in the area say their trade is suffering as a result.

  • Click below for Hannah Pettifer's report

As thousands of shoppers come to Ipswich this weekend, it's a crucial time for retailers.

But the arrival of a Christmas craft market, run by a London company, in prime position in the centre of Ipswich, has raised serious concerns from local businesses.

Lynn Turner, who runs a boutique, said: "Every penny that is spent there in that tent is not being spent on the high street.

"I'm concerned for Debenhams and Marks and Spencer, they're under threat of moving out of Ipswich, that as a long-term threat is very bad for Ipswich.

"No disrespect to the traders there it would have been great if it had been for three days but this is right up to Christmas so every penny that is being spent in that tent is not being spent in the high street and the high street really needs it."

Ipswich Borough council says it did consult the public on what they wanted in the town square and the majority backed this kind of event.

But shop owners feel local businesses should have been given a chance.

John Manning, a shop owner, said: "This time of year we're all chasing the Christmas pound I guess it's disappointing they felt the need to bring in people from outside the town to enhance the shopping on offer.

"We in St Peter's street and all over the town have a pretty decent offering. I don't think it's enhanced Ipswich's offering at all."

But the council disagrees saying: "Footfall is up in the town centre. We have held Christmas fairs for many years - we believe they enhance the retail offer and make shopping a real fun day out.”

Market traders say they've been hit hardest by the Christmas fair. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Market traders say they're suffering the most - having been almost cut off from the main stream of shoppers by the marquee.

Annette Harper, a market trader, said: "We felt it was getting better but the day they put the marquee up, it stopped people again they can't see us.

"New people to Ipswich won't be able to find the market, it's really quiet again and it's not what Christmas should be, it's stealing our Christmas from us."

But the council maintains the event attracts visitors to Ipswich, which, despite claims otherwise, it says is good news for all retailers.