Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have voted against a three-year price freeze for the annual Power NI Enchanted Winter Garden event.
The proposal to halt a price rise for 2020 was made by Glengormley Alliance Alderman Julian McGrath at a meeting of the council’s Community Planning Committee at Mossley Mill on Monday night.
Instead, the entry fee looks set to increase to £5 per adult/£3 per child and £14 for a family of four.
Ald McGrath acknowledged that it was not expensive compared to other Christmas attractions but he suggested that it should be “kept cheap and accessible for people in the borough on lower pay scales”.
Dunsilly Alliance Councillor Glenn Finlay suggested the option of getting extra sponsorship rather than imposing the additional cost onto families.
The council’s Director of Community Planning Nick Harkness said that the £46,000 budget includes additional sponsorship.
He also reported that there had been “significant investment in new lighting to try to make it better and more enjoyable every year”.
Last year, 84,036 visitors attended the Power NI Enchanted Winter Garden event during December which is an increase of 23,304 from 60,732 visitors in 2018.
More than 64,000 visitors came from outside Antrim and Newtownabbey.
Macedon DUP Councillor Dean McCullough said that although he does not want to see any price increase, he pointed out that the council does not know what will happen during the next three years and the local authority can’t “tie council officers’ hands” over budget.
Instead, he stated that they need to have a “bit of freedom”.
Cllr Finlay pointed out that an entry fee freeze is not the same as a freeze on income.
He indicated that he was “looking to see if we could get money from elsewhere” and it was “disingenuous to suggest that”.
Antrim DUP Councillor Paul Dunlop commented: “The event is getting better every year. Every year, we learn more and more from it.
“We will leave party politics outside the door.”
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
Michelle Weir , Local Democracy Reporting Service