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New hybrid Charter Market to be launched in September

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The historic St Albans Charter Market is to be relaunched in a new hybrid form on Wednesday 7 September.

The revamp will involve a mixture of traditional stalls - in the City’s famous colours of blue and yellow – and gazebos.

Stalls will provide the Market’s central core while St Albans-branded gazebos, which are popular among some traders, will be set up nearby.

The intention is to create a harmonious look with some traders being allowed to bring their own gazebos as well as food trucks to be positioned on the fringes.

St Albans City and District Council manages the twice-weekly Market and has been examining its future following the COVID-19 pandemic.

To provide the hybrid Market, 80 new stalls will be purchased by the Council to replace the current ones which are bulky, run-down and not of a standard type.

A Council Task and Finish Group reviewed the costs of refurbishing and deploying the existing equipment which is cumbersome as well as looking at its health and safety profile.

It was felt that continuing to use these stalls would have entailed risks to erectors, traders and the public.

Only one or two trailers will be required to transport the new equipment from storage to the Market site in St Peters Street and these will also be acquired. They will replace the 16 vehicles that were previously used. Thirty-five St Albans-branded gazebos have already been purchased

Other purchases are subject to funds being identified and approved by the Council as the changes are phased in.

The existing equipment including three old tugs will be sold off, possibly by auction, to raise funds for the new equipment.

In another move, tenders are being sought for a contractor to put up and dismantle the Market stalls and gazebos for traders.

This task was undertaken by the Council’s own workforce before the pandemic when the market became gazebo-only to ensure social distancing and reduce the risk of COVID contamination and spread. Traders were required to bring their own gazebos and assemble them.

The new initiatives were recommended by the Council’s Market Task and Finish Group to a meeting of the Regeneration and Business Committee on Tuesday 21 June and approved.

Councillor Robert Donald, the Committee’s Chair, said after the meeting:

I am absolutely delighted that we are finally able to push forward with a hybrid Market, as agreed earlier this year, at speed and that it will launch in September.

I have been as frustrated as some members of the public that it was not possible to get on with this sooner because holding the necessary meetings was not legally permitted during the recent local election period.

We will now have the best of both worlds – the reassuring sight of the return of stalls in uniform St Albans heritage colours in St Peters Street together with gazebos, some provided by us and others on the edge of the Market by the traders themselves.

The temporary move to a gazebo-only Market during the pandemic sparked an intense public debate about the future and whether we should keep the gazebos or move back to stalls.

That issue has now been settled and we can look at other aspects of the Market.

In recommending these actions to secure the future of the Market, the cross-party Task and Finish Group previously consulted intensively with traders, considered all public and political feedback and arrived at a strategy that I am hoping will be popular with all involved.

The Committee also agreed that an external operator will be sought to help run the Market for a six-month trial with the Council retaining overall managerial control.

This may be a charity or firm with expertise in the market sector such as the company that wins the contract to erect and dismantle the stalls.

An assessment of how successful the trial proves to be will be carried out by the Task and Finish Group.

The Group will also consider whether the Market should be run as a charitable trust at its next meeting later this summer.

New licensing and bad weather policies for the Market have also been agreed.

Cllr Donald added:

Our Charter Market dates back centuries. It is one of our City’s great attractions and we are determined to ensure it has a sustainable and exciting future ahead of it.

I want to see the Market thriving again as quickly as possible since it is an indispensable part of our District’s economic health and vibrancy. We have set a target of getting back to pre-pandemic levels of traders and income again over the next eighteen months to two years.

With these changes in place, I’m confident it will go from strength to strength in the years ahead to the benefit of all our great traders, residents and visitors.

Picture: Scene from the Charter Market.

Councillor contact: Councillor Robert Donald, Chair of the Business and Regeneration Committee and its Markets Task and Finish Group: 841647

Contact for the media: John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer: 01727