St Albans BID puts Sunday markets on hiatus

The St Albans Antique and Vintage Market was cancelled for January and February by the BID.

The St Albans Antique and Vintage Market was cancelled for January and February by the BID. - Credit: Bigstock

The future of St Albans' popular vintage and vegan markets has been thrown into disarray, but there are conflicting reasons as to why they have been scrapped until the spring.

The events - which are managed by St Albans BID (Business Improvement District) - had been confirmed for most of 2022 by former BID manager Denise Parsons back in October, only for January and February's markets to be cancelled with just a few weeks' notice.

St Albans Antique and Vintage Market was cancelled for January and February by the BID.

St Albans Antique and Vintage Market was cancelled for January and February by the BID. - Credit: Bigstock

Local resident Jenny Titmuss of Corky Events, who runs the vintage market, had a fully booked and extensively advertised market scheduled for January 16 only to hear on December 29 that it wasn't taking place.

In emails seen by the Herts Ad, BID chair Alison Berneye said it was her decision alone to cancel the markets, based on various factors including resources, the spread of Omicron, the winter weather and health and safety issues surrounding traders and gazebos.

She also said the BID board had decided to put all markets on hold while it was going through the process of renewal ahead of its current term ending on March 31.

Alison added: "If the BID is renewed, and we very much hope it is, we will be reviewing the markets moving forward. Looking in particular at pitch fees, refuse removal and management."

Vegibites at St Albans Vegan Market.

Vegibites at St Albans Vegan Market. - Credit: Becky Alexander

But when the Herts Ad contacted Alison direct, she presented a completely different story behind the cancellations, blaming the decision on St Albans district council (SADC) and the reopening of city centre roads closed since the end of the first Covid lockdown.

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Last month a decision was made to temporarily re-open High Street and George Street in advance of extensive pedestrianisation trials in April, which has reduced the amount of space available for BID markets, including those on Sundays and Fridays.

Alison explained: "The decision is not directly connected to renewal, it’s to do with the delay of the trials and reopening of the streets. SADC was not able to give the BID permission for the use of the full market footprint on St Peter’s Street during daytime hours on non-Charter Market days because of their street trading policy and existing street trading consents.

"We sought meetings with SADC, but due to their staffing, no meeting was able to be held before Christmas. There is a new head of service at SADC and we hope to persuade him to allow BID markets to operate on the St Peter's Street footprint for the next three months until the pedestrianisation scheme is reintroduced.

"Should the BID be re-elected we will work in partnership with SADC to continue to support and promote extra markets whether they are programmed by SADC or the BID. We hope the council will support the extra markets over the next three months and work with us on a solution."

St Albans Vegan Market.

St Albans Vegan Market. - Credit: Becky Alexander

Jenny responded: "'I think all the contradictions speak for themselves. You can see what she told me initially and you can see what she is saying now.

"I am really sorry that the city in which I was born and have always lived should now have such an unfair, undemocratic and, frankly, unchallenged 'micro climate' operating under the radar of the people and that it has come to this.

"I am more than happy to apply for my own licence to trade once a month – it’s what happens in most other councils and is the most straightforward way of doing things. As it stands I have nothing to protect me from BID decisions since they have never given me any kind of agreement – even though I have asked many times."

An SADC spokesperson said: “We were not involved in the decision to cancel the vintage and vegan markets.

“Many of our senior officers, including the acting Head of Community Services, were on duty over the festive period and were available for meetings if requested.

“On learning of the cancellations, we contacted the BID’s chair to request a meeting and that has been scheduled for this week.

“Markets were held long before Hertfordshire County Council pedestrianised parts of the city centre temporarily to allow for more social distancing as a Covid safety measure.”