Victory for traders as councillors ditch Charter Market gazebo scheme

Councillors save St Albans Charter Market's traditional stalls

Councillors voted on Wednesday (inset) to save St Albans Charter Market's iconic, blue and yellow traditional stalls - Credit: Archant / St Albans Council

Councillors have unanimously voted to save St Albans Charter Market’s traditional stalls.

St Albans Council had proposed a cost-cutting switch to self-erected gazebos, but after a Herts Ad investigation into traders’ questions and concerns, it set up a cross-party group to reconsider.

At a meeting of the Regeneration and Business Committee on Wednesday, February 2, councillors backed the group's new proposals.

They included retaining 80 “existing traditional stalls", to be erected for traders, with gazebos and food vans also given space.

A contractor may be hired to erect and dismantle the stalls, chairman Robert Donald said, but the council would like to retain managerial control and may register the market as a charity.

“When we started the task and finish group last September, we had a pretty politically highly-charged situation with traders and with the public and with members,” said Cllr Donald. “It was a fractious situation."

But he said he hoped the group’s revised plans would mark “a fresh start”.

Conservative scrutiny chairwoman Annie Brewster said the decision was “splendid news” and would be “a tremendous relief to our traders –particularly lone workers who have struggled to erect gazebos".

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One such lone trader was antiques dealer Alice Young, a vocal opponent of the gazebo plan.

She recently suspended trading on the Charter Market after long Covid left her unable to independently erect her own gazebo.

“I expect to return imminently, once equipment is being provided and erected, as has been decided,” she said on Thursday.

“I feel really happy today. We’ve come a long way. Until the Herts Ad got involved, everything was moving in the direction of a self-erected gazebo market.

“After your investigation, there was a change of direction. Now we’ve had this U-turn, which is great news for traders.

“The Herts Ad gave traders the opportunity to speak up and be listened to properly. It demonstrates how important freedom of speech and freedom of the press are in safeguarding democracy.

“I would also like to thank Conservative and Labour councillors for taking up our cause and preventing the council from steamrolling through unpopular changes without comprehensive consultation.”