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Canterbury market boss blasts council's plan to 'banish' traders across city

The leader of Canterbury market has voiced his frustration at the council’s plan to “banish” his traders from their current high street base.

Steve Bamber says the authority’s vision of dispersing stallholders to other areas of the city, as reported in last week’s Gazette, is a “way of killing off” the long-standing market.

Canterbury Market Traders Association chairman Steve Bamber
Canterbury Market Traders Association chairman Steve Bamber

He argues there must be a collective area in the heart of the city for customers to visit traders - rather than have stalls dotted across various streets.

But the council, which has its sights fixed on disbanding the market’s current make-up in favour of a high street revamp, is hopeful its plan for a scattering of pitches will “create a really vibrant atmosphere”.

It proposes having 41 stalls available across a 0.5-mile area, including on less busy streets such as Station Road West, Guildhall Street and Rose Lane.

While some have welcomed the plans, Mr Bamber - the chairman of Canterbury Market Traders Association - says the changes will harm the allure of the city for loyal customers.

“This is not in the interests of our customers, who consist of local people and visitors to Canterbury, and who rightly expect a street market to be offered as defined by any dictionary: an open-air market often held only on particular days of the week in a designated area,” he said.

Where the new market pitches are planned to go
Where the new market pitches are planned to go

“St George’s Street has long been the designated area for Canterbury market – a central position where tourists, as well as our elderly and disabled customers, can come and purchase goods at reasonable prices and socially interact with us.

“Interaction is much-needed and valued after so many lockdowns - so, market traders and customers alike maintain this is where a market must remain; in the heart of our city centre.”

The market currently operates on Wednesdays and Fridays but the council will force stallholders to reapply for licences in January next year when work on the £1.2 million renovation of the high street begins.

Mr Bamber added: “Banishing traders to lone-standing pitches elsewhere is simply another way of killing off Canterbury market and depriving our city of a valued and vibrant feature.

“Once it’s gone – it’s gone for good - and I can assure you there are not many who are positive about that.”

The history of the market in Canterbury is thought to date back almost 700 years, with licences for a variety chartered way back in 1453.

Days are numbered for the existing market
Days are numbered for the existing market

Its heritage is one of the reasons why campaigner Julie Wassmer has started a new petition calling for a council rethink.

More than 2,000 people signed a previous petition to save the market - but councillors still opted to vote through the divisive project last year.

Setting up a new appeal, Ms Wassmer said: “Markets all over the world are a magnet for visitors and in Kent one only has to look at the popularity of Faversham market to understand this.

“Whitstable has already lost its market and the Sunday boot fair has gone from Wincheap’s park and ride. What exactly does this council have against markets?”

“If you really want to know a place, visit its local market. Virtually every major city in the world has at least some sort of market that can offer its visitors an authentic experience.”

Last week the council revealed it is intending to u-turn on its decision to chop down five trees in the high street as part of regeneration scheme.

Respond to a council consultation on the plans here.

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