THREE sites are being eyed up for the Eastgate Market to relocate to.
The old Marks and Spencer, in Northgate Street, the Fleece Hotel complex, in Westgate Street, and the furniture shop in King’s Square are all being touted as the possible future home of the market.
The locations were revealed by Gloucester City Council lead Paul James in a private meeting with traders this week.
While he admitted that traders still prefer the ‘stay where we are’ option, their favourite of the three locations was the M&S site.
“Each of the locations have their merits. The old M&S site would give the market a presence on the Gate streets that it doesn’t currently have but the rent at £300,000-per-year is high and there is the expensive asbestos problem to sort out.
“The Fleece Hotel is easier in some respects because it is already in the council’s ownership so we could act fairly quickly, although some traders were concerned about the footfall.
“Having the market there could create a unique setting for it and it would certainly help Westgate Street. We could still worker with a developer and have others things happening on site, such as a hotel, but you could effectively have some outdoor stalls that lead into the market.
“Traders also didn’t want us to rule out King’s Square now or in the future but we are not sure that there is anything in King’s Square that is quite big enough.”
The temporary Furniture Express store has been suggested as the third option but at 8,000 sq m it would be smaller than the existing market inside The Eastgate shopping centre.
Moving the market was first announced last year when it emerged that TK Maxx want to occupy the space that it has enjoyed for some four decades.
Mr James said they ‘didn’t want to rush’ making a decision – and that traders would have the last word in the move. A decision is expected around Easter time.
On TK Maxx, he said: “They want to come to the city as early as possible but they recognise that it won’t happen before Christmas. I’d expect them some time next year.
“There is a recognition from the traders that they want TK Maxx to come to the city but at the same time they want to protect their livelihoods.”
TK Maxx say they will not take the first floor of the shopping centre, telling the centre’s bosses that while they do occupy first floors elsewhere, they never go alone – and that the space is too small.
Miriam Bubb, spokeswoman for the market traders, said: “Our first preference would be to stay where we are but we are open minded and realistic. The M&S site was our second preference.
“We think the Fleece might work but there is a lot of work to be done on i and I’m not sure if they have the money for it. It would be nice to have a Victorian market there but we have to be practical.
“The meeting went well. They showed us a plan of where they would like us to go upstairs. A lot of us thought upstairs was not suitable, but some thought it could work.
“At the end of the day we have to think about our customers and what they want.
“We are still in limbo. They haven’t said we can’t stay here but it wouldn’t be for the long term. They cannot revamp the market with us here.”
Some 7,000 people have now signed a petition calling for the market to remain on the ground and not be moved to the first floor.