Market traders in Barnsley claim they have been given just days’ notice that their stalls are being relocated in the town centre to make way for more regeneration work, sparking fears the upheaval will damage their businesses.
Barnsley Council needs to move stalls currently located on Cheapside, where they were put as a temporary measure when work on the Glass Works shopping centre began and the existing outdoor market was lost, for ‘public realm’ improvements which will work hand in hand with the new centre under their plans to transform the centre.
But it means stalls being moved again and it is feared some will see a loss of trade when moving from the prime site on Cheapside to an expected location of Kendray Street, which sees fewer shoppers walking past.
The situation has been compounded, they say, by a notice period of only days, denying traders the opportunity to explain to customers where they could be found in future.
The Barnsley group of the National Market Traders Federation has contacted the council to ask for a delay, to allow stallholders to take advantage of what they expect to be the busiest bank holiday weekend of the year, along with time to warn customers of the change.
They have been told the timescale for the work involved means that is not possible, however.
NMTF spokesman Keiron Knight said: “A lot of traders are really worried about this and it is going to have a major impact on them.
“The council keep saying they want to work with us but we have just been given an ultimatum about this.”
The federation wrote to Paul Clifford, the council’s head of economic development, to ask for a delay in the move and to complain there had been no consultation.
In addition, they said the council had missed an opportunity to put up information boards and conduct other promotional work to inform customers of where traders would be based in future.
Their letter said at a recent meeting traders had been encouraged to be positive about the town centre changes, but added: “Can you explain how traders can be positive when they are seeing their businesses disintegrate in front of them?”
Mr Clifford responded by acknowledging the problems involved and said: “I do appreciate that this transition is a difficult one for traders and realistically there is probably no ideal time to look at doing this.
“The main factor driving this work is the public realm programme delivery timeline which unfortunately does not contain any room for adjustments in terms of planned works.
“We will always look to accommodate feedback and suggestions received where it is practically possible to do so but unfortunately, as with programmes of this nature, not all suggestions can be technically accommodated.”
Coun Roy Miller, a member of the council’s ruling Cabinet, said traders from Cheapside could opt to relocate to any vacant stall.
The council will not put extra stalls in Market Parade Square, however, because existing stalls will also need to be relocated when work starts on demolishing the multi-storey carpark, which is scheduled for July.
“As with all areas of the development we continue to work closely and openly with our traders as we move forward to the exciting new offer,” he said.
Market stallholders have been reporting increased fears for the future as work has progressed with the Glass Works project, which is remodelling the old Metropolitan shopping centre.
The meat and fish market is expected to move into its modern new home in September, to be followed by other traders later in the year.
But some businesses believe the new arrangements, which will see rents more than treble from the old market rates, are unaffordable and have chosen to leave the market instead.
A further complication is that they have been asked to sign up for long leases, tying them into the project without a means to escape if their businesses do not succeed in meeting the running costs involved in the new building.
Barnsley Council expect improved customer numbers when the new building opens and have said previously the meat and fish market has been put in a prime position which should help boost trade.