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Cambridge market consultation: Stallholders say they are ‘airbrushed out’

Campaigners claim a consultation on the future of Cambridge market is “biased” and “designed to airbrush out” the existing general market.

Cambridge City Council is asking people for their views on a proposed multi-million pound project to renovate the city’s market square and introduce removable stalls which can be taken off the square so it can be used for live music, pop-up events, outdoor cinema, lectures, street performance and more.

Cambridge market square concept design
Cambridge market square concept design

However, plans have proved controversial with market traders who say that the removable stalls will not withstand the weather conditions on the market or the weight of goods being sold. They are also concerned that trading hours will be reduced to make way for entertainment.

In an open letter to the city council, the Friends of Cambridge market said: “Folks are really upset about this survey. They are saying it’s had a foregone conclusion written into the questions.

“This biased survey will only serve to add to the mistrust and anger the market community and general market users feel.”

They point to survey questions which they say don’t offer a full range of possible responses, but give “options that practically airbrush out the market”.

Even more concerning, they claim, is that a trial of different types of removable stall will not happen at the same time as the public consultation or even at the market, instead being carried out in a council depot.

Glenys Self on Cambridge market. Picture: Keith Heppell
Glenys Self on Cambridge market. Picture: Keith Heppell

Glenys Self, of the Friends of Cambridge Market, said: “How can the results of the stall trial be included in the public consultation if the trial isn’t due to finish until after next winter?”

The council claims its overall vision is to transform the market square into “a high-quality, multi-functional civic space, which is inclusive and supports a diverse range of day, evening and night-time community uses, in and around the space’s continuing daytime use as a venue for the city’s hugely popular and successful daily outdoor market”.

A separate consultation process is being organised with market traders to trial new demountable stall designs, which are a key component to the proposed vision.

Cambridge market square concept design
Cambridge market square concept design

Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for the market, said: “The aims of this project are to have the same market operating on the same days and times but in a revamped and improved market square. This consultation is about the aspects of the market square and the infrastructure of the market that we hope to change, not about the parts that we plan to keep the same.

“This consultation is also just on the concept design phase, so the rough outline of the new layout of the stalls, reduced highway space, and wider central aisle, etc. More specific details such as having all hot food in one location, which isn’t currently possible due to the electrics but would be in the new design, will be decided in later phases.

“If we included the option to choose whether you like having a market in the market square or not, then it would introduce the idea that getting rid of the market as an option, which it isn’t.”

The key design proposals include:

  • New, single unified surface treatment across the entire square, including the restoration of the listed granite setts
  • New market layout creating increased space for public seating, tables and chairs; and street entertainment
  • New demountable market stalls.
  • Additional public seating, benches and eating tables
  • New underground waste management system and improved toilets and storage for traders

The results of the consultation, together with any proposed changes to the proposed vision and concept design, are due to be reported to the council’s environment and community scrutiny committee in October 2021.

Cambridge market. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge market. Picture: Keith Heppell

Subject to the outcome of the consultation, a recommendation will be made for committee approval to progress to the detailed design stage of the project and secure planning consent and funding for the associated works.

If approved, work on the detailed design will start in the autumn of 2021 and the public will again be asked for their views on the final detailed design.

The planning and implementation stages will follow agreement of the detailed design and, once the capital investment being secured, the changes could be in place by spring 2023.

Cambridge market square concept design
Cambridge market square concept design

To take part in the consultation visit cambridge.gov.uk/consultations.

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