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Concern over ‘secrecy’ surrounding new Cambridge market square designs

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Designs for a revamped market square are being shown to a handful of groups who have been told to keep them secret.

There are five options for the new-look market, which include an open seating area around the fountain and foldaway stalls that can be pushed back to make space for evening entertainment, including outdoor opera.

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

However, concerns were raised about why the process is secret and about fears the running of the market could be privatised after market operator Quarterbridge was contracted by Cambridge City Council.

Gelnys Self, spokesperson for the Friends of Cambridge Market, said: “We are very concerned that this is being held under secret conditions and this is not in keeping with the general attitude of the times where we’re trying to be inclusive.

“The fact that the centre of our city is being formed around the views of a handful of action groups doesn’t seem right. The city is bigger than the pressure groups. The whole city needs to be included in this.

“From street level the stall options we have been shown look very modern. There is nothing traditional about them.”

And concerning the potential use of market operators Quarterbridge, she added: “If we are taking the national trend as a trajectory then we have to be alert to the fact that many markets are now in private hands and we do not want this for Cambridge.”

Dr Annabel Keeler, a member of Friends of Cambridge Market, added: “There is no denying that the current fixed stalls with their attractive striped awnings give the market an iconic look that makes it stand as a traditional historic site to be visited alongside King’s Parade and the colleges. It is this traditional, historic character of the market that is, I fear, in danger of being lost if the fixed stalls are just swept away in favour of something characterless, and possibly not even practical or sustainable.”

The concept designs for the market have been shared with action groups and stakeholders for early comment. The city council has been exploring ways to have stalls that can be moved to make space for evening entertainment and outdoor dining. The designs also include relaying the cobbles and paving around the edge of the market to remove the kerb, and upgrading the toilets.

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

Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for the city centre, said: “The proposals create a space in the middle of the market where there could be more seating for people in a band across the middle from Great St Mary’s across to the other side with the fountain in the middle to provide space with tables and seating. It would give the market a more open and positive feel. They are also looking at stalls which could be concertinaed into each other to make space for other events.

“It’s true outdoor opera was mentioned. If we could move the stalls when they are not in use it would make room for seating in front of the Guildhall. Presumably there could also be ballet performances or musicals there.

“If these changes had been done five years ago, the space could have been used by others in the evening, such as restaurants. In the past we just thought that would be a nice thing to do, but obviously this year it has gone from ‘nice’ to ‘it could have saved people’s jobs’.

“There is a lot of mistrust and, obviously, saying ‘don’t share this’ has made it worse.”

She added: “It’s a shame but in some ways I don’t know how else it could have been done because the only other option would be not involving the stakeholders until it was ready for public consultation.”

Cllr Moore promised: “There will be a full public consultation next year.”

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