Call for proper testing for new Charter Market stalls

St Albans Charter Market.

St Albans Charter Market. - Credit: SADC

The controversy over stalls at St Albans Charter Market looks set to continue despite assurances that it had been resolved.

The district council (SADC) announced this week that a hybrid mix of traditional stalls and gazebos will be launched on September 7.

But rather than use the old stalls - which SADC says are bulky, rundown and not of a standard type - 80 new ones are to be purchased.

Cllr Robert Donald, chair of the council's business and regeneration committee, welcomed the decision.

"“We will now have the best of both worlds – the reassuring sight of the return of stalls in uniform St Albans heritage colours in St Peter's Street together with gazebos, some provided by us and others on the edge of the market by the traders themselves.

“The temporary move to a gazebo-only market during the pandemic sparked an intense public debate about the future and whether we should keep the gazebos or move back to stalls.

“That issue has now been settled and we can look at other aspects of the market."

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But county councillor Annie Brewster, who has been championing the Charter Market for years, has spoken out about the challenges of using untested new stalls.

“The unanimous agreement the task and finish working group came to for a new hybrid market [before May's elections] was to include the return of our tried and tested blue and yellow traditional stalls that have efficiently served the Charter Market for years in different weather conditions and with different internal set-up configurations required by different types of market trader.

"It was agreed these would, once more, line the famous St Albans 'Golden Mile' along St Peter’s Street and Market Place from The Beech House to Jago Jewellers.

"If the decision has now changed to have replacement stalls fabricated, one should be looking for something to be, at least, as good as our old stalls in appearance, in reliability and in capacity. It would be marvellous if new stalls can provide all this and be easier to erect and dismantle but this needs to be carefully tested for St Albans Charter Market’s unique requirements.

"It would, therefore, be smart to request some sample stalls before ordering the full 80 so market traders can ensure they, at least, match our former operation. It also makes sense that the old stalls and existing scale of storage facility within the city centre should be retained whilst this happens as there will be no going back once they have gone.”