Consultation over market relocation plans

Three public consultation drop-in sessions are being held in Chester next week to gain feedback on plans for the future of the market and the city's retail offer in general.

Cheshire West & Chester Council is planning a new £8m market on two levels on the site of the council-owned Frodsham Street car park, to be accessed on both levels via a bridge from the city walls and an entrance from Frodsham Street. There will be a new indoor market hall on two floors and space for temporary outdoor stalls.

The current market building, behind the Town Hall on Princess Street, is in a poor condition and trades at 62% of its potential occupancy. The council keeping the existing market open could cost council taxpayers between £2m and £3m over the next five years. In 2009/10 the total loss was £69,558 and this year the forecasted shortfall will be £64,133.

However, a petition is being gathered by the Friends of Chester Market organisation, run by stallholders, in opposition of moving the market outside the city walls. The Friends want the market retained near the Town Hall in the heart of the city centre.

The council's feedback sessions will take place in the Town Hall on Northgate Street on the following days:

Tuesday 25 January, 2pm – 6pm

Wednesday 26 January, 2pm – 6pm

Thursday 27 January, 9am – 1pm

Leader of the council, Cllr Mike Jones, said: "The council's initial priority is to ensure the continued operation of Chester's market and to create a more vibrant and better trading atmosphere.

"With the recent decline in trade and the poor condition of the market hall we need to address the current issues at the earliest opportunity, as uncertainty over the market's future will be of huge detriment to those who trade there.

"The drop-in sessions are an opportunity for those with questions, queries or strong views to come and speak with officers in detail about the proposals.

"We are looking to hear from the market's traders but also members of the public who use the city centre and the market's facilities before budgetary decisions are taken in February.

"We believe that a state-of-the-art building would be more attractive to the public and help to address the retail decline in trade. Quite frankly I believe this is what they expect to see when they shop in a city such as Chester."

Your Comments

30th January 2011 This is a reply to Council Leader Mike Jones, who has recently been unfairly ‘slamming’ Chester Market in the media – the following is an overview as we see it:- The council are intent on relocating the market so that they can sell the land that it is on to ING (a Dutch banking group). This is so that the land can then be redeveloped with more unneeded, mundane shops and apartments. To this aim, the council say that the market is in a poor state and is losing money and must go. . . . . .But the market is only losing money because the council has badly neglected the market, I.E., leaky roof for over 15 years, poor town signs, new traders turned away – so failing to rent out stalls, no attempt to improve people flow, and with too many market employees leading to a very large wage bill, no wonder there are problems. . . . . . But council chiefs want the market to be a problem to justify their actions in downsizing It. They have already boarded up shop units, ripped out stalls and are cutting the market in half, further demising it, in readiness for when the move comes to sell the land that Chester Market is on, so kowtowing to ING, and making a quick buck. We dispute Councillor Jones’s claim that Chester Market would have big losses in the future – the fact is that the market takings last year was nearly half a million pounds !. . . .the loss of £69,000 was despite the market management losing well over £120,000 through not renting out stalls, and having an excessive market employee wage bill of £177,000 …. It does not need rocket science to rectify this! [These figures were obtained from Cheshire West and Chester Council] If Chester Market can not be righted and is forced to move, an alternative venue that would keep it in its Grand position close to the Town Hall could be the old building that the library occupies, which fronts Northgate Street. This is far more suitable for a traditional market than the new offer on Frodsham Street which is fraught with problems, being illegally pitched on ‘open land, and is outside the City Walls. Indeed, in just a few weeks, an amazing 1500 angry people have signed our petition to keep our historic market by the Town Hall, where it has been since Saxon times, which means that we have now triggered a full council debate on the issue. Vic Button, Chairman of Friends Of Chester Market. For more information Tel: 01829271639 or 01244 314927 30th January 2011

By vic button

I have only just discovered this dreadful, grandiose scheme to remove the bus station and the market from their present positions so close to each other and so ideal for those elderly and disabled people who come into Chester by bus, to say nothing of the mothers with young children and buggies. The way things are now is ideal for people like my 89 year old friend who cannot walk far, but can manage the short walk to the market and the Forum from the bus station. The thought of having to get off the bus – which is difficult for her now – and then on and off yet another bus to reach Northgate St and the market is frankly not on. In fact I know she will not do it, and so yet another disabled person will be denied access to her favourite shopping trip. Then to discover that the Powers that be are also going to move the market – words fail me. WHY? Well, having read the letter below I now know why! This is an absolute disgrace, the market should definitely stay near to the Town Hall and Northgate St as it always has – the idea of moving it in a shrunken form to some soulless modern building is horrible. But money obviously talks, as it did in Hanley when they built that useless, far-too-small excuse for a bus station which so annoys everyone, drivers and passengers alike. From having a lovely friendly café there where you could get a good meal cheaply, you now have a rubbish concession selling over-priced snacks and drinks and you have to sit out in the open concourse on cold metal chairs to consume them. Is that what Chester needs? Resoundingly NO. The whole idea is abhorrent.

By Kath Holt

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