MARKET traders will not be forced to move from Eastgate Market if they do not believe it should relocate, city council boss Paul James has said.
A private meeting with traders will take place on January 22 when they will learn of the relocation options open to them.
But Mr James has said they will not be forced to move out to make way for national retailer TK Maxx who are eyeing up the spot.
He is writing to the firm to see if they would consider occupying the upstairs space in The Eastgate shopping centre – and to see if the former plan to move into the old Marks and Spencer building, in Northgate Street, really is dead in the water, or whether it could be potentially revived.
But he admitted that not moving the market would cost a fortune in repairs, making a move the most realistic option on the table.
Mr James, leader of the city council, said: “I asked the council’s property officers to look at all options for the future of the indoor market and at this meeting we will be taking traders through those options to see what their preference is.
“What we are trying to achieve are the twin objectives of securing the long-term future of the indoor market and also bringing in a major retailer to the city centre, which will help everyone by increasing footfall.
“But I am clear that the future of the market and improving its environment are my priorities.
“All options are on the table, including keeping it where it is, but if that’s what we decide we will need to be serious about the repair issues we are facing.
“Market traders have been very constructive in their approach to this and I’m sure we will have a positive meeting.”
He added that it was unclear how repairs to the existing market could be paid for, or even how they could be done with market traders in situ.
More than 2,000 shoppers have signed a petition calling on the historic market to be kept in its familiar surroundings, which it has enjoyed for some 40 years.
Market trader Tavia Merritt said: “I haven’t heard of a single person who is for moving the market, everyone wants to keep it here.”
It has been suggested that one of the options on the table might be to transform it into an outdoor market in King’s Square – harking back to the market’s original status as an outdoor market in Eastgate Street, opposite the Guildhall, until its move indoors in 1974.
Yesterday, former market trader Philip Langley suggested that the market should never have gone indoors in the first place – citing increased running costs.
Plans to relocate the market surfaced when TK Maxx’s plans to move into the former Marks and Spencer fell through. Instead the firm set its eyes on the current site of Eastgate Market, but an initial plan to move the market upstairs was ridiculed.
The Marks and Spencer site has since gone back onto the market, with a leasable value of £300,000-per-year, but bosses admitted that only limited interest had been expressed so far.