MARKET traders may be offered the chance to spread out across two floors as plans for a first-floor-only Eastgate Market look set to be ditched.
A chorus of angry traders have slammed plans to move the market after 40 years to the upstairs area in The Eastgate shopping centre. They feel that without any passing trade it will sound the death knell for their livelihoods.
A handful of traders admit that they are quite happy to relocate upstairs, however.
Now an alternative plan to relocate the market into a ground floor unit with access to the first floor is being explored. The clothing store Internacionale, which has recently gone into administration and could close, looks like the most likely place to locate the market with steps leading up to an additional upstairs area.
Council leader Paul James told city councillors on Thursday that he wanted it in ‘black and white’ that he would not force traders to move if they did not want. Traders are set to receive a financial breakdown of the costs involved with moving to several possible locations, or staying where they are.
Attacking a letter in the Citizen which claimed traders could just be given a tin of paint to give the current market a makeover, Mr James said: “It would not be fair to ask traders to deal with the more serious issues affecting the market. We are also under a full-repair lease, meaning we have to carry out the works.”
Shopping centre owners Rockspring want the market to move completely upstairs, but Mr James said: “With the Rockspring proposal the problem is that is only on the first floor. We will have to see if there are variations on what has been proposed.”
If the market does move, it will pave the way for a new TK Maxx store to move in – but more than 9,000 people have signed a petition to call for it to stay put.
Councillor Kate Haigh, leader of the Labour group, said: “I love markets and I want to make our market even more successful. A first floor market is not ideal because it is predominantly used by families with buggies and older people.”
It comes as lifelong butchers Alan and Mary Jones retire and close down their Western Butchers stall on Saturday after 40 years of business in the current market.
City councillors said they are working quickly to try and fill the vacant unit with another butchers, but it was claimed by Labour that the task would prove tricky because the uncertainty over the market’s future location could make it more difficult to rent out the stall to any potential new butcher.