Meeting about future design of Cambridge market cancelled after legal challenge
Just hours before a meeting to discuss the future of Cambridge market, the city council has withdrawn the item from their agenda following a legal challenge.
Councillors were due to meet today (Thursday, January 28) to agree a public consultation on new designs for the market square, which included stalls that could be removed to make way for public events.
But campaigners complained a vital report from market management consultants Quarterbridge was missing from the documents being shown to the public and, following a last minute challenge, the council has pulled the discussion from the environment and communities scrutiny committee.
In an addendum to the meeting paper, the city council states: “The council has received a written challenge that it has failed to follow its legal obligations... in relation to a report referred to in Appendix A (Market Square Project Concept Design) of the above agenda item. The basis of the challenge is that this report should have been made available as a background document to the agenda item.”
The council adds that the report, which has been written by market management consultants Quarterbridge, discusses how the proposed changes to the market could be funded “and how the operational management of the outdoor market could be improved through the project.”
Friends of Cambridge Market spokesperson Glenys Self, who is a market trader, said: “Thank goodness we have democratic accountability in this country. The Friends of Cambridge Market are 100 per cent behind this challenge and grateful for it.
“It's crucial that the city knows what is being planned for them and for the market. And they need to know before the public consultation. How can people be consulted on something they haven't been shown? We need to see exactly what Quarterbridge’s vision is for the market and to make sure we are not being forced down a path that the city doesn’t want. There will be a cost to all these changes and we want to make sure it is not draining the city’s purse.”
The city council has now said it will bring the market concept design proposals back to the scrutiny committee on March 25.
LDA Design, which wrote the concept design proposal for the market, admits in its own report that more than any other stakeholders, including traders, the “most crucial collaboration” was with market management consultant Quaerterbridge, which was “appointed to sit alongside the design team”.
It adds that Quarterbridge has influenced the direction of the design significantly with “invaluable benchmarking information and advice throughout the design process”.
So campaigners were very surprised to find there was no report that the public could read from this very influential consultant.
Daniel Fulton, of campaigning group Fews Lane Consortium, who made the challenge to the city council, said: “I felt that, in the interests of fairness, the report should be published.
“My underlying concern is that the redevelopment of the market may not be sympathetic to the historic nature of the market square.”
So far, the stall designs being proposed for the market square have proved unpopular with traders who fear that they are “flimsy” and may collapse under the weight of their produce.
Julia Cox, of Emerald Foods, said: “The amount of weight we have on our stall is immense and looking at the fruit and veg stall opposite me, their operation is double the size. There’s no way they would be able to work from a gazebo-type stall.
She added: “I personally would like the person who has put these designs together to spend a day of their life on the market and see how unworkable it would be. Our stall at the moment has been specially designed – we have welded shelves and benches.”