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Private meeting to discuss ‘concept design’ of Cambridge market

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The future of Cambridge’s market square and ideas for a concept design for the space are being discussed in two invitation-only workshops this week.

The city council is aiming to provide an area for evening entertainment, improve accessibility to the square and include seating areas for visitors.

A feasibility study carried out for the council last year claimed that having fixed stalls in the market prevented the area from being cleaned properly, attracted anti-social behaviour and ruled out other uses in the evening.

Recreating Market Square with underground cycle parking and canopied events space. From feasibility study report. Copyright: BDP / Cambridge City Council. (26719001)
Recreating Market Square with underground cycle parking and canopied events space. From feasibility study report. Copyright: BDP / Cambridge City Council. (26719001)

Joel Carre, head of environmental services at the city council, is leading the market redevelopment project. He said: “We are a growing city, we have eight million visitors a year and we have multinational companies coming here who expect a high-quality offer in terms of our open spaces.

“The market square is one of those key public spaces.”

He added: “People want to sit in the square and enjoy the space. We need to think about how we can support that and find ways to support the evening and night time economy as a city.

“It’s a space that is not fulfilling its full potential.”

Briefing papers for the meetings, to which community groups and traders have been invited, ask how the council could “maximise availability and flexibility of outdoor public realm space to accommodate both commercial and community use.”

Up for discussion is a new layout for the market – which could include fewer stalls or stalls that are taken down at night – to create room for evening entertainment and seating areas.

Previous use of the space has included night markets, outdoor films in front of the Guildhall, the Christmas lights switch on event and street performances.

Glenys Self in Cambridge Market . Picture: Keith Heppell. (26884928)
Glenys Self in Cambridge Market . Picture: Keith Heppell. (26884928)

However, traders have reacted angrily to the suggestion of removing the mixed market stalls.

Stallholder Glenys Self, spokesperson for Friends of Cambridge Market, said: “The thing that upsets me most is that they haven’t put in any positive reasons for keeping the stalls.

“My greatest concern is practically all the traders want to keep the stalls and we need those stalls, even in a different configuration, for our businesses to survive.

“Either the council has to pay a team of people to put up and take down a whole market full of stalls every morning and evening, or the market traders would have to do that themselves. And that will add a substantial amount of time to their already busy 10-hour days. They would lose a lot of the traders – a lot of people have said they would leave if the stalls are replaced with gazebos.”

She added that many traders arrive by bicycle and would not be able to continue if they had to bring stalls with them every day. And she said anti-social behaviour could be reduced if vertical canopies on the stalls were rolled up at night

However, Mr Carre said the council could not commit to providing a team to erect and put down the stalls every night and said the consultation process was still at an early stage.

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