SPECIAL REPORT: Could plans to 'refresh' Northampton's Market Square 'kill it off'?
Half-baked plans to 'refresh' Northampton's market square by adding an additional lane and repairing rotten canopies could - conversely - kill off trade at The Drapery end.
That is the fear held by almost all of the market stall owners towards the bus station side of the square, who have collectively lashed out at the borough council’s plans this week.
Workers have been busy removing empty stalls to create a second through-lane which begins opposite the Boots store.
But Mick Andreoli, who has owned his fruit and veg business by Santander bank for nearly 50 years, believes the move could put him out of business - by funnelling shoppers out of the
Grosvenor Centre and straight through the market and providing no need to dally at a stall.
“This will be the biggest mistake the council has ever made,” he said.
“What it is going to do is split the trade. People are going to cut straight from the Grosvenor Centre through to Abington Street.
“Those on the side nearest Market Walk will hoover up every passer-by and leave us picking up the scraps.”
Northampton Borough Council claims the latest moves were consulted upon, but the Chron has learned that only two traders were at the steering committee meeting that eventually passed the move by a unanimous vote.
Furthermore, the Market Action Group (MAG), set up more than five years ago to act as a forum for traders to raise any concerns, has twice voted against the plans for an extra aisle.
Quite simply, most people enter the market from the Grosvenor Centre, rather than the Drapery.
Even Eamon Fitzpatrick, one of the two market sellers on the steering group who voted through the aisle, says he regrets his decision.
“If I had thought it through, I wouldn’t have voted for it, 100 per cent,” he said.
“I would have been behind my fellow traders.”
Pete Quincey, who runs a card shop directly opposite the old Moon on the Square pub, said: “There has been no consultation whatsoever. And no one can answer whether the traders in the new aisles will have to pay the premium rate that we do.”
Zoe Smith, who has run a flower stall for 19 years, is one of many traders who feel they should have simply been balloted about the changes.
“I would have been able to vote against it,” she said.
“I just got told it was going to happen.
“It’s going to put all the trade over one side.”
Award-winning baker Andrew Collins has been pitched at Northampton’s market for five weeks.
The Whittlebury-based expert has previously held stalls in London, has appeared on German television as an expert baker and regularly judges culinary competitions here in the UK.
But the newcomer says the additional aisle is an odd decision given that some basic flaws still need addressing.
For one, he is puzzled as to why he cannot secure a permanent pitch at Northampton’s market square and his requests to set up a mobile unit have been refused.
“My frustration is that I don’t have a permanent spot.
“I’m here today, over there on a Thursday. My customers don’t know where I’m going to be on a day.”
The changes come following suggestions and consultations with traders and a National Association of British Market Authorities (NAMBA) review. The works will continue over the next few weeks, on non-market days, Sundays and Mondays and should be completed by mid-October.
Councillor Phil Larratt, deputy leader of the council, said: “We’re really proud of our town’s market, which is why we are investing in improvements to make it an attractive environment to trade and shop in. We consulted with traders before the works began to enable them to input their ideas, and to ensure that anyone being relocated as part of the works is happy with the position of their stall within the new market design.
“We look forward to unveiling a brighter and more spacious market square.”