More markets promised as council rebukes axe claims

St Albans Charter Market has had to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.

St Albans Charter Market has had to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic. - Credit: Archant

Rumours on social media that the city's Charter Market is being axed have been shot down in flames by the council's business lead.

Cllr Mandy McNeil, portfolio holder for business, tourism and culture, wanted to reassure residents that not only was the market not being closed down, it was actually expanding.

A petition and Facebook campaign launched by ex-councillor Salih Gaygusuz suggested that the market was going to disappear forever, with traders setting up stalls like a car boot sale. So far it has failed to reach its target of 1,000 signatories.

The petition follows a survey asking members of the public for their views on the future of the market, and the replacement of the previous metal framed stalls with gazebos.

Mandy explained: "Until the government removes social distancing restrictions, currently targeted to be late June, the council has to continue to operate a temporary COVID market structure with socially distanced pitches, in accordance with guidance.

"However, this summer will see the pilot of a uniform gazebo market on a section on St Peter's Street, pending government regulations, with options in St Albans colours, and an option selected from traders' and residents' feedback as part of the consultation. The food market will remain its vibrant self."

"I read every one of the responses to the public survey, which were overwhelmingly positive. There were a few cheeky comments, but more than 90 per cent of the feedback was very supportive of what our officers are doing. People wanted to see more artisans, more markets, more local traders and less waste, so we have incorporated that feedback into our plan." 

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The proposed gazebos will meet the appropriate design and maintenance standards, be weighted down or otherwise secured to improve stability. The council is working with Herts county council to introduce flush-mounted, fixed anchor points in the market pavement area. 

She said the majority of traders operate at other gazebo markets, and BID rangers will be available to help with erecting and dismantling the gazebos if required.

As part of the council's revised five year plan for markets, there will hopefully be many more taking place across the district, including a Young Entrepreneurs Market, a pop-up market for Boishakhi, celebrating the Bangladeshi Diaspora, a Work Market, the return of the Black History Month market and maybe even a Pride Market this year too. 

Mandy added: "We are now in a position to expand our current market and event offering, pilot new markets and events and work together with traders, business and community groups to bring much needed footfall back into our city centre."