St Albans Charter Market meeting to be held in public
- Credit: Charles Thomson
Traders and residents are being invited to attend a public meeting on the future of St Albans Charter Market.
Market owner St Albans district council has set up a working group to examine options for its development.
The group would normally meet in private, but its second meeting will be open to view because of intense public interest reflected in recent articles in the Herts Advertiser.
Among the key issues the group is looking into is whether the market should become gazebo-only permanently or revert to traditional stalls.
During the Covid pandemic market bosses introduced gazebos which traders are required to provide as well as put up and dismantle.
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Previously, a team of council workers was employed to erect and take down stalls which were stored at its depot.
Presentations will be made to the group’s next meeting at 6pm on Tuesday September 28 to outline the advantages and disadvantages of the gazebo and stall options.
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Residents will be able to listen to the discussions although they will not be able to contribute to the debate unless they are a designated speaker.
They will be able to watch a webcast which will be made available here.
The working group was formed by the council’s business and regeneration committee with all four political groupings represented.
Cllr Robert Donald, chair of the cross-party working group, said: “Normally, our meetings are being held in private but members agreed with my suggestion that this one should be held in public in view of the huge interest there is in the Charter Market’s development.
“This has become one of the most closely-followed and contentious issues in the district for some time, so it is only right that we allow an opportunity for the public to participate in and listen to the debate as we examine all options.
“A great deal of heat has already been generated about the proposed market changes but not always enough light. I want to pause now to allow time for a more reasoned debate about the market’s future.
“Our first meeting agreed a road map with a process and timetable for finally resolving this issue by early February 2022 including a decision whether or not to hold a formal gazebo pilot this winter.
“We also wanted to reassure traders that we are listening to their concerns about the erecting and dismantling of whatever equipment is finally decided and that the council will continue to take its responsibilities in this regard very seriously.
“At this next meeting I am keen to allow a range of different opinions and options to be expressed before we decide our recommendations to the regeneration and business committee.
“We will have representatives of the traders, the BID (Business Improvement District), retailers, the Civic Society and residents speaking from their point of view about the advantages and disadvantages of either traditional stalls or gazebos or why they don’t mind whichever is chosen.
“I urge anyone who is interested in the market, including traders, shoppers and local businesses, to follow the meeting online.”
There will be a further meeting on Tuesday October 19 when the group is due to decide on the date of a possible pilot scheme of a gazebo-only market. This will be to test its popularity and long-term viability among traders and shoppers.
The group will also meet on Tuesday November 3 when it will finalise its recommendations which will be put to the committee’s meeting on Tuesday November 23.
Cllr Donald added: “We are moving on swiftly with our task of producing a strategy for delivering a Charter Market that I am determined will be attractive, sustainable and worthy of our city’s heritage and future prosperity.
“Following the presentations on September 28 I am hoping that the working group will come to a consensus on the best way forward on that and other associated market issues such as a possible pilot, health and safety concerns and its uniform appearance.”
Cllr Annie Brewster, chair of the council's overview and scrutiny committee, said: “I am delighted with the progress the cross-party task and finish group made at its first meeting.
"It will be most reassuring for market traders to learn that, whatever the outcome of the group’s exploration of the suitability of traditional stalls or gazebos on September 28, the chairman has indicated they will be provided, stored, erected and dismantled for them by St Albans district council.
"Clearly, this decision will require official ratification at the next regeneration and business committee. I look forward to our deeper investigation on Tuesday about which are the most appropriate structures for the St Albans Charter Market, to be introduced when the post-Covid St Albans Charter Market returns.”