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Council working towards reopening Cambridge market ‘soon’

Cambridge market is likely to reopen “soon”, probably with a restricted number of traders at any given time, according to Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for climate change, environment and city centre.

Cambridge market closed following the city council decision. Picture: James Gordon
Cambridge market closed following the city council decision. Picture: James Gordon

With Covid-19 infections rates soaring across the city, the council temporarily closed the market on January 1. With traders left “shocked” at the decision, a petition was started to reopen the popular venue – which has been signed by 6,000 people.

A council statement said: “The council took the decision to temporarily close the market following advice from the director of public health after an excessive number of people were seen in the city centre, in spite of the stay-at-home regulations that were in force at the time.

“People were congregating in nearby areas such as King’s Parade, where fencing has now been installed to prevent public gatherings. The market has also been fenced off while it is closed to prevent the square being used as a spot for night-time gatherings and drinking.”

At the time of the closure, the city was in Tier 4, but on January 4 a new national lockdown was put in place.

“The new national lockdown must mean that fewer people will venture into the city centre, as nobody should be using the historic square and surrounding streets to socialise, whatever the time of day,” said Cllr Moore. “With fewer people using the space, we hope to be able to reopen for essential trade soon. Under the national Covid-19 regulations essential trade refers to the sale of food and drink, including hot food takeaways, the sale of alcohol, plus services such as bike and car repairs.

“It is likely that in order to reopen safely we will need to restrict the number of traders and so we will need to find a way to allocate pitches in the fairest way and to try to ensure that all traders who want to are able to trade at some point.

“There is no benefit to Cambridge City Council in closing the market which we run on council land - the decision was based on reducing the spread of Covid-19 in the city.”

Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for climate change, environment and city centre. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for climate change, environment and city centre. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Moore added: “We will update traders about the process for reopening and we will review and update our package of support for traders in the light of the closure and of the new lockdown.

“I do believe that it was right to prioritise public health and to do what we can to prevent the transmission of the virus. If your journey into the city centre is essential, please come alone if you can, not with the whole household and remember hands, face, space to keep yourself and others safe.”

Lib Dem have criticised “the delays and confusion created by Labour councillors who have doubled-down on their decision to shut Cambridge’s open-air market, despite new national lockdown guidelines clearly specifying that outdoor market stalls selling essential supplies can continue to trade”.

The opposition group remains concerned that the prolonged closure is forcing vulnerable people into indoor shops for their essential supplies.

City centre representative Cllr Anthony Martinelli said: “We know that the situation with Covid-19 is critical at the moment, but continued closure by the council makes no sense. It is now a week since the shutdown was announced and yet there seems to be no plan or timeline for reopening the market, which government guidelines would permit to open. Any issues with the square should be resolved by using the city’s covid marshalls more effectively to ensure social distancing – we do not understand why this is taking so long.

Lib Dem Cllr Anthony Martinelli
Lib Dem Cllr Anthony Martinelli

“While outdoor crowding can, of course, risk viral spread we can already see that footfall in Cambridge is down significantly after the Christmas holidays. Now that we are in national lockdown, the rules are much clearer, with only essential trips being permitted.”

The current lockdown is proving far more problematical than the first: the list of key workers is far more extensive this time around, and school attendance remains alarmingly high. Less than 50 per cent of people were wearing masks, in situations where it was difficult to observe social distancing, during an essential visit this reporter made into the city this afternoon (January 8). The fact that masks still have to be worn after having being vaccinated is still not widely appreciated.

Market traders who have not yet done so are advised to apply for additional business support grants.

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