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Cambridge market revamp to cost £4.5million

Proposals for a revamped market square with removable stalls will cost £4.5million, according to a report for the city council by market development consultants.

Quarterbridge, which has developed other markets across the UK, says in its report this is the minimum cost to deliver the council’s long-held ambition to turn the market square into a ‘flexible’ space with evening entertainment and night markets.

The city council has already plunged £158,000 into investigating ways to improve the market. It now wants to approve a further £320,000 for a public consultation. Cost estimates for the market redevelopment range from a capital cost of £4.47m to £4.96m.

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

Traders have warned previous attempts at night markets were unsuccessful and that consultant fees could be better spent on refurbishing the existing market.

Glenys Self, spokesperson for Friends of Cambridge Market, said: “How can they justify spending millions of pounds on making the market into an entertainment space when public money is so tight?

“If the market had been maintained properly by the council over the years it wouldn’t need refurbishing. They could save the money they are spending on consultants and sort out the electrics and the canvases over the stalls.”

She added that in previous movie screening evenings on the market square, visitors were not buying anything from stalls. “I took £150 in total over eight nights,” she says.

“I know hot food traders had to throw food away because parents were buying their kids meals from McDonald’s and not spending at the market.”

Cambridge market Square concept design for collapsible stalls
Cambridge market Square concept design for collapsible stalls

As part of the multi-million pound redevelopment, the council wants to devise new market stalls that are sturdy enough to withstand the weather but that can be removed to make way for evening events.

Traders want to see prototypes of the stalls before a decision is made.

The Cambridge Market Traders Association has written an open letter to councillors, saying: “The stalls the council are proposing are brand new and have not been trialled anywhere in the country, nor has any date been given for when prototypes of such stalls will be ready.

Bill Proud, secretary of Cambridge Market Traders' Association
Bill Proud, secretary of Cambridge Market Traders' Association

“Until these have been produced, trialled by the traders and proved to be viable for all kinds of trade and in all weathers, it is plainly wrong to spend any more public money on the ‘flexible space’ which is at the heart of the council’s vision.”

The council is proposing a six-week online public consultation about the market plans. Traders will insist at a meeting of the environment and community scrutiny committee on Thursday (March 25) that the prototypes are in place during the consultation.

The consultants’ report says the market could attract more visitors by having “themed market concepts” – such as record and vinyl fairs, art markets, a vegan festival, a gin festival, a food festival and night markets.

Cambridge Market traders Association have expressed concern about the impact of these events on traders’ business.

They say major events would lead to a loss of two days’ trading for each event. Proposed Christmas night markets would have “severe impacts on the existing traders at their busiest and most profitable time of the year.”

They add the report suggests there could be regular live evening events from the start of May through to September, plus further events, including 3 weeks of Christmas night markets, in November and December.

The Cambridge market Traders Association says the detail about how this will affect “individual existing traders and nearby businesses and residents is wholly inadequate.”

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