Working group to look at Charter Market options
A working group has been set up to examine options for the future development of St Albans’ historic Charter Market.
It will also consider the impact on the market of possible long-term pedestrianisation of parts of the City Centre and the extension of al fresco dining.
The group will hold at least four meetings before reporting its findings and recommendations in November.
St Albans City and District Council runs the Charter Market which has been in operation for several centuries.
The cross-party working group was formed by the Council’s Business and Regeneration Committee at its meeting on Thursday 2 September.
All four political groupings on the Council have been invited to provide representation on the working group.
Given recent publicity and controversy, one of the key issues to be reviewed is whether the market should become gazebo-only permanently or revert to traditional stalls.
The market was kept open during the Covid lockdowns by introducing gazebos which the traders were required to provide as well as put up and dismantle. This was intended to reduce the risk of surfaces being contaminated by the virus.
Previously, a team of Council workers was employed to erect and take down stalls which were stored at a depot.
The working group will recommend how and when a pilot scheme of a gazebo-only market should be undertaken to progress a decision of the Council’s Cabinet of March 2021.
This will test its popularity, sustainability and long-term viability especially among traders and shoppers.
Details of the technical matters to be monitored during the pilot, including the erection, dismantling, weighting and colour of gazebos and weather-related health and safety concerns, will be discussed and agreed.
Other issues the working group will consider include the likely financial costs of continuing with gazebos compared to a return to stalls and the relationship and additional benefits for the public and the Council of the markets run by the St Albans Business Improvement District.
Councillor Robert Donald, the Committee’s Chair, said after the meeting:
Our Charter Market is one of the District’s greatest economic and community assets, providing fresh food and a wide range of clothing and household goods at best value prices and attracting many visitors to the City Centre. When operating properly it also benefits surrounding shops, restaurants and other businesses.
We managed to keep it open at the height of the pandemic by switching to gazebos brought by the traders themselves while markets elsewhere closed.
It is important that we now look at how best to develop the market in our post-Covid world and my Committee has set up this working group to carry out an in-depth study of the options and the costs.
In examining these issues this cross-party group will be consulting further as necessary with all interested parties, including the traders many of whom have worked at the market for decades and earn their main livelihood from it.
It is my intention that the working group should seek to reduce the temperature of this hotly-debated issue and generate more light than heat in their recommendations to the Regeneration and Business Committee.
We are determined to continue delivering an attractive and sustainable market that is worthy of our City and heritage. The working group will report to the November Committee meeting when I am aiming that members will decide which is the best strategy to implement for the market’s future.