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."