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JULY 19 - AUGUST 1, 2019 Fears over Christmas market plans
A proposed expansion of this year’s Christmas markets in Newcastle-upon- Tyne has been condemned by local traders, who fear it could deal a fatal blow to their businesses.
Local media reported
recently that stallholders at Newcastle’s historic Grainger Market, along with street traders, have been left infuriated by plans to extend the festive event along the city’s Northumberland Street and Blackett Street. Veteran fruit and veg trader
and spokesman for the Barrow Traders Association, Albert Sayers, whose stall has long been a fixture on Northumberland Street, believes many of his fellow traders could be forced out of business if the Christmas markets take over the famous thoroughfare.
This year’s Christmas markets will be operated by Nottingham-based Mellors Group Events, and Newcastle City Council is insisting that a “significant percentage” of the traders will be local.
But Mr Sayers claims there
was no consultation and still thinks the plans could spell disaster for many of the city’s permanent businesses. “All of the traders I have spoken to say that they don’t want it,” he told local media. “It encroaches on their business. “It’s common sense that if you have 50 food stalls outside the Grainger Market then it is going to cause problems. “This has already been decided now for the next five years and there has been no consultation with us. “How many businesses will go bust now? The council doesn’t listen, they have lost control of the streets. Someone from Nottingham coming to run a market here is ridiculous.”
Fellow street trader Terry Milligan questioned the logic of the council’s claims that the extended market will increase footfall to the city, believing instead that it will simply take shoppers away from existing sites.
Mr Sayers and Mr Milligan have launched a petition to move the Christmas stalls to
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the city’s Bigg Market in order to protect existing traders’ livelihoods.
Those putting their names to the petition range from street traders and small local business owners to large chain stores including Cath Kidston and Samsung. Although the exact location
and number of the market stalls is yet to be confirmed, it is expected they will be sited along the length of Northumberland Street, Blackett Street, and around Grey’s Monument. Mr Sayers added: “I am
challenging the council and (Cllr) Ged Bell to organise a public meeting where everyone who has signed the petition can make their voice heard.
“If there is a way of relocating the Christmas market to the Bigg Market or the Quayside, they should. “The problem we have is the location. I have nothing against the Christmas market itself, but to put them here is ridiculous.” Struggling stallholders at Grainger Market have long been at odds with the city’s festive event, with many questioning why the attraction is not designed to lead shoppers into their iconic hall. One trader, who didn’t wish
to be named, said that the latest move will leave them
feeling even more “alienated”, while another added that the market is now “just dead”. Cllr Ged Bell, cabinet member for Employment and Investment said recently in a statement: “We have ambi- tious plans for Newcastle to become a world class shop- ping and leisure destination with vibrant high streets that create jobs and prosperity. “We will be improving the
city’s whole Christmas offer, with the Christmas markets central to this.
“We have appointed Mellors, a market leader in the management and delivery of events, to lead on this. “We are fully committed to working closely with local traders and retailers to make sure this new arrangement benefits everyone. We have listened to feedback and introduced a strict condition that a significant percentage of traders must be local, and we hope this will increase year-on-year. “And we will continue to engage with and consult with traders to ensure they are central to our Christmas offer, particularly those in the Grainger Market and other local areas.
“We understand their concerns but want to assure them that the market will have a key part to play this Christmas and in the future.”
Newcastle’s iconic Grainger Market (Photo: Graham Robson) Speaking to local media
Cllr Bell has since added: “Throughout the wide-ranging conversations NE1 had with city centre businesses their feedback was very supportive of the expansion of the markets.
“Evidence from other well run Christmas markets, including Nottingham, Leeds and Manchester shows both increases in footfall and dwell time.
“Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland, also run by the city’s new operator Mellors, saw a 6 percent increase in footfall to the city last year, against the national trend of falling numbers.
“The council recognises the concerns previously raised by local traders. We are confident that Mellors will create Christmas markets to benefit all, that will both offer a unique winter experience and complement the city’s retail and hospitality sectors. “Once the formal planning application is submitted, statutory consultation will be carried out with businesses with frontages facing the planned markets and there will also be an opportunity for others to formally respond, so we are disappointed to receive a petition before the full details of the plans have been published. “We have had a number
of face-to-face meetings with traders and we will continue to engage with local businesses to ensure everyone benefits from what promises to be a great new addition to the city’s Christmas offer.”
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