DIRE prophecies have been voiced over the future of the Chichester traders’ market if action is not taken.
The market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday on the Cattle Market car park, but will ‘cease to operate’ if it stays there, according to traders and Chichester District Council.
“If we don’t move it, Chichester is going to lose the market,” said Sam Theuma, who operates it.
He is calling for the market to be moved into the city centre – in North Street and East Street.
Greengrocer Peter Martin said it would be a great idea to move, especially as the council would get extra cash from the car park.
“It’s a win-win situation for the council because they gain this car park back,” he said. A cabinet meeting on Tuesday (March 3) will decide whether to look at moving the market.
I think Chichester is being left behind and I think Chichester has a lot more to offer
“The market has been declining in its present location and will cease to operate if the location is not changed, resulting in loss of income to the council and service to the community,” said a report prepared ahead of the meeting.
Mr Martin also goes to Winchester city centre and said the market’s position there was a boost for traders.
“You have to be where the people are,” he said. “Markets were an amenity for the poorer people. Not everyone can afford to go in Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, much as we would like to.”
He emphasised the benefits he felt the change would bring to the market.
“It would be a different place. I would bet my house that the trade up the high street will at least double.”
Mr Theuma works for Bray Associates, which describes itself as the ‘largest private outdoor market operators in the UK’ and has operated the Chichester market for about the past 15 years.
“It’s like any other business – we’ve seen a decline,” said Mr Theuma. “We came up with the idea (of moving) and spoke to the council that this market needs to move up to the high street.”
He said Chichester could only be compared to other cathedral markets, such as Winchester and Salisbury.
“No disrespect to both – but I think Chichester is being left behind and I think Chichester has a lot more to offer,” he said.
Tony Coward, of T&T Fruits, has been coming to the Chichester market for 25 years and said it had now gone ‘very quiet’.
However, he voiced concern he would not be able to carry his heavier goods, such as potatoes, up to the pedestrian precinct on foot.
“It will be better for trade, but we will have to sort ourselves out,” he said.
“It’s lovely here, I’ve got all this room and I’ve got my lorry here.”
He said they would not know without trying it.
“We’ve got to give it a try. This is the only thing I know. We’ve done this all our lives.”
The Slindon Bakery has a stall at the Cattle Market and also at the farmers’ market in the city centre.
Jody Turner-Cross who runs the stall in the car park said it was easy to see the difference between the two locations.
“It’s been going down and down and down every year and it’s so hard to make a living there. If it moved to the high street it would be such a good thing. Chichester is being let down by the market in the car park.”
He said when the farmers’ market went to the city centre, all the traders’ takings went up ‘significantly’ – with shops also seeing a benefit.
City groups oppose move
NOT EVERYONE is pleased at the notion of the current market being in the city centre.
The Chichester BID was consulted and Andrew Finnamore, chairman of the city centre partnership, said it would not be supporting the proposed move in its current state.
“To move the current market into North and East Streets, as presented, is a very poor idea and would not be supported by Chichester BID,” he said.
He said the idea presented for the initial consultation was not of the standard that the Chichester BID’s board would ‘support, accept or promote in any way’.
“We do have a popular and properly-run farmers’ market operated by Chichester District Council on Fridays, twice a month, as well as the annual garden and Christmas markets managed by ourselves,” he said.
“This does demonstrate that we are not adverse to markets as footfall draw, either as businesses or visitors/tourists.”
He said he hoped a proper consultation would be undertaken.
Mr Finnamore has warned the district council that discussions made out of ‘short-term revenue gain’ at the expense of a proper evaluation were ‘foolish’, adding it would damage the BID’s reputation.
The BID’s views are broadly echoed by the Chichester Chamber of Commerce, which questioned if the market was needed.
“As a chamber, we represent organisations not just in Chichester, but throughout the district and our members regularly come into Chichester for work and social reasons,” said chairman Louise Hopkins.
“Of those surveyed, few use the market as it has little they want, other than the food stalls, and some said they really wouldn’t miss the market, if it were to go.”
She called for a wider survey to identify the demand and need for the market.
“It would be naive to assume that any old market would do, or that what suits Cattle Market now can simply be transposed to another location,” she said.
Chichester District Council’s cabinet has been warned by officers of the strong feelings a relocation could stir up.
“If the traders’ market is not relocated, it is likely to close,” said a report ahead of the meeting, noting there were ‘sensitivities’ related to relocating to the precinct and it needed to be of benefit to the whole of the city.