Cambridge market campaigners demand a plan B for square’s future
The Friends of Cambridge Market are asking why there appears to be no “Plan B” for the market if a consultation on the future of the square decides against the proposed removable stalls.
A meeting of the city council’s environment and community scrutiny committee approved a consultation on plans for the market square, which include two designs for removable market stalls so that the square can be cleared to make space for entertainment. It also puts forward ideas for visiting markets.
An amendment from Liberal Democrat councillor Josh Matthews was added ensure that no design work on the market goes ahead before the end of the consultation. It was Labour’s Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for the market, to say that the council needs “to ensure that it doesn’t hold us back on the procurement process”.
And Cllr Moore told the Cambridge Independent it would be "irresponsible" if the consultation led to a design that kept fixed market stalls, "considering the year we have just had and the fact that if we are spending all this money on the market square."
Kati Preston, a member of the Friends of Cambridge Market, said after the meeting: “We have had to write to the committee secretary to see what this amendment actually means.
“I’m concerned that by going ahead with procurement – which basically means shopping – before the consultation is over, the council could just buy all the equipment they want for the market, including the stalls, and it would be a fait accompli.
“It looks very much like predetermination before the consultation has even started.”
When questioned on why the council wanted the “procurement process” to go head before the end of the consultation period, Cllr Moore said: “In order to progress the whole project we should want to plan the next stage.
“So we wouldn’t do any of the design work but we would be ready to do the design work.
“To do that we are making sure we have procured the architect and other people who need to be involved.
She added: “We do know we need flooring and we need stalls, so some work needs to be done.
“I didn’t want to limit us to say we wouldn’t do anything to prepare for the next stage until after October, but we are not committing to anything specific in the design.”
When asked if keeping the traditional stalls was still an option, she said: “Yes, but it seems a bit irresponsible considering the year we have just had and the fact that if we are spending all this money on the market square, it makes sense to be able to have it more open, should we need it or want it to be.”
However, many traders have raised concerns about the sturdiness of the removeable stalls and voiced fears that they will lose trading days while entertainment – such as live music or film nights – is set up on the market.
No alternative vision is offered in the consultation in which a refurbishment of the fixed stalls could be an option rather than the demountable versions.
Dr Annabel Keeler, another Friend, said after the meeting: “Where is the council’s Plan B if the consultation decides against these plans?
“The council has already spent £158,000 developing the plan, and… gave the go-ahead to spend a further £320,000 on their dream scheme...
“Despite having banked so heavily on these stalls, the members of the council have tacitly admitted that they can’t be sure they will be successful.”