Traders mount opposition to German market scheme

St Albans Market campaign logo

St Albans Market campaign logo - Credit: Archant

ALMOST a hundred traders have signed a petition to stop the council investing in a German-style market claiming the funds should be spent on improving the current market and that visitors will be drawn away from the city centre.

Traders from a whole variety of stalls have backed the campaign which was launched shortly after St Albans district council announced it was planning to explore the option of a festive market.

The proposed event is poised to be positioned by the Cathedral and Vintry Gardens, prompting market sellers’ concerns that visitors will not spend as much time on St Peter’s Street, despite the council claiming they chose the location to be “close to the existing market”.

One unhappy market trader, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The reason behind the petition is that it is going to affect our trade by people going down to the Cathedral and not coming back up to the normal market.

“If you think about it, if you park down there would you walk back up, especially if you are elderly? So that’s what we’re complaining about.”

Some chalets will be located near the Clock Tower to “link” the markets, but it is unclear how many will be positioned there.

The upset market seller also claimed traders had not had any consultation from market officials – bar a letter detailing the plans.

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But a council spokesperson said Beric Read, portfolio holder for community engagement and localism, had offered to meet with traders to answer any questions they might have.

“We are always keen to talk with market traders and to consult them about key decisions relating to the market.

“In addition, we will also be consulting market traders over the summer on how best the council can continue to invest in and improve the twice-weekly markets.”

In response to the petition the spokesperson went on: “We want to discuss the option of a Christmas market with market traders in more detail so that the project’s potential benefits are fully understood.

The spokesperson stressed that the aim of the proposed market was to attract new visitors to the district and ultimately benefit trade: “Within three years, we are looking to generate a net income of £100K per year from the Christmas market.”

But the market trader said the council had not spent enough money on the current market and should use the £80,000 set aside for the Christmas market on improving the twice-weekly event: “They were supposed to put new sheets up, and they’ve still got the old ones up. They don’t spend money on it [the existing market].”

He maintained the best way to generate interest in the market was to advertise and promote it – rather than launch an additional event: “We need new sheets, more advertising, and to promote the market in places where they [the council] can get new traders.”

But in reply a council official said an investment programme did exist for the markets, and sheets, table boards and stall bars were replaced as required every month within the yearly budget.

Details of the festive market were discussed at a district council cabinet meeting last Thursday where several several traders attended.