SERIOUS concerns have been raised over the success of the Winchester Cathedral Christmas market because of overcrowding and traffic.

Long queues and coach congestion have sparked unease that the market is becoming too big.

Some 37 coaches visited the city on November 30 alone, with 250 expected throughout December, bringing in thousands of people and a bonanza for shops, pubs and cafés.

The extra footfall is clear every day as people squeeze through the bottleneck entrance. Barriers and security guards usher the crowds with people waiting for 10-15 minutes before entering the Inner Close.

There have been severe traffic problems with frequent tailbacks around The Broadway and along Friarsgate for vehicles trying to enter the Brooks Centre car park.

City councillor Fiona Mather, whose ward includes the cathedral, said: “There are some serious capacity issues. The site is very constrained and we are, of course, a small city that has problems dealing with 37 coaches in a day.”

Cllr Ian Tait added: “I’ve no problem with the number of people, but it’s the management and forward planning that concerns me. I’d like assurances from the police and the fire service that they are happy. I am supportive of the market and I think it’s been great this year but it would be better running along The Square.”

A city council spokesman said: “Winchester is an extremely popular destination and so does get very busy. We recommend that people use public transport, walk, or use Park and Ride as a first choice”.

The cathedral is enjoying a huge financial boost from the market, which started around six years ago.

Around 100 exhibitors are at the market until December 22, each paying up to £9,984, plus a £12 daily surcharge for a prime location. This means the cathedral will potentially accrue between £364,000-£998,000 from the chalets alone. Last year, sales for the gift shop and catering rose by seven per cent and five per cent, raking in £467,000 and £899,000 respectively, according to the cathedral annual report.

A spokesman for Winchester Cathedral said: “It’s too early to comment in detail, but a strong marketing campaign, along with some very favourable weather, give us every indication that the popularity of the market and ice rink as part of the whole Christmas capital will stand up well.”