Near-calamity as gazebo blows over at St Albans Charter Market

Traders try to hold down the gazebo as it is caught by winds at Saturday's Charter Market.

Traders try to hold down the gazebo as it is caught by winds at Saturday's Charter Market. - Credit: Gels Picciuto

Fortunately nobody was injured when one of the controversial gazebos blew over in high winds at Saturday's Charter Market.

Gazebos were introduced at the market during the pandemic, replacing the traditional stalls, and dividing the public and traders over whether they should become a permanent addition.

The near-calamity was spotted by local businessman Gels Picciuto, who snapped a shot of it happening outside the Clarks store in St Peter's Street.

He said: "These gazebos are breaching health and safety and endangering the public and traders. Bring back the existing heritage stalls immediately as an interim fix whilst portfolio holders and line managers get to grips with the long overdue problem."

Cllr Annie Brewster, chair of the council's oversight and scrutiny committee, said: “It is great relief no one was injured at this time on a busy Charter Market Saturday afternoon. We have repeatedly warned this to be our dread ever since gazebos were proposed in lieu of our historically reliable and sturdy traditional stalls.

"Whatever the fixings used, be they weights or pavement tie-downs, there is a moment in dismantling or erecting a gazebo when a gust of wind can get under the canopy and the entire structure can take off, as it did here, particularly in the elevated wind-tunnel our famous market resides within.

"The canopies of traditional stalls are removed first before the heavy metal frames are dismantled. We have lost traders due to the risks and difficulties gazebo handling pose and will lose more if our traditional stalls do not return in a hurry.”

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Last year trader Sharon Herd, who has run a baked goods stall for over 30 years, warned SADC: “I’ve seen hundreds of gazebos blow away. They are not safe. Even with weights, they can take off. But I’ve never, in 35 years, seen a market stall blow away.”

A council spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, during the pack down of the market on Saturday, a trader removed the weights from the feet of their gazebo before fully folding the gazebo away. A gust of wind caught the gazebo and tipped it over. No one was injured and no damage was caused.

“Market officers make regular inspections of the market to check that stall equipment is being used appropriately, but the traders are responsible for operating their market equipment safely and are required to have public liability insurance should accidents happen.

“We have had multiple conversations with the trader concerned and are satisfied that it is not a mistake that they are going to repeat and that it has acted as a reminder to other traders.

“An advice note has been circulated to all traders reminding them that weights should be the first thing to be put onto their gazebo during setup and the last thing to be removed during pack down.”