Stoke & Staffordshire

Concerns raised over Burton-upon-Trent market plans

Albert Widdowson
Image caption Albert Widdowson, who sells net curtains, said the plans were "not feasible" for him

"I don't know where I stand after 54 years... why should I have to be pushed out?"

Net curtains stallholder Albert Widdowson, 70, has been involved with Burton-upon-Trent's indoor and outdoor markets since he was a teenager.

But a group at the Staffordshire town's Indoor Market has expressed concerns over council plans to refurbish the site and also use it as an evening entertainment venue.

The proposals were approved at an East Staffordshire Borough Council cabinet meeting on Monday 13 August..

'Finish me'

Mr Widdowson, who has a fixed indoor stall, said the plans to switch to "pop-up" stalls, where stock would be removed every day, were "not feasible".

He said: "If the future carried on with what they're proposing, they'll finish me, because I'm unable to carry all this stock and... put it on a pop-up stall.

"I daren't spend five grand and buy a load of stock for next year because I don't know whether I'll be here next year."

More than 4,000 people have signed a petition opposing the plans, but the council said an improved market hall "with an improved offer that attracts custom will increase footfall and trade significantly".

Image caption Wendy Newitt said "an awful lot of money" had been spent on stalls

The authority said its plans "actively seek to encourage a more diverse market".

But Julie Stanley, who has lived in the town for more than 35 years, is part of a group which has put forward its own proposals.

These include changing the layout to offer additional facilities such as "a child area and/or café thus attracting a wider demographic of people, ages and cultures".

'Get customers back'

Mrs Stanley, 52, who sells jewellery in the indoor market, said the alternative ideas were backed by 34 signatures from market workers.

Asked about disruption during refurbishment work, she said: "How long we're going to be not able to trade, if it takes six months, three months, 12 months, we don't know... we've then got [to] get our customers back."

Mrs Stanley said the council had stated the majority of future stalls would be food-related, while she estimated the current balance between food stalls and those with other items was "roughly 50-50".

Image caption Plans for the indoor market have been recommended for approval

Wendy Newitt, 49, has a fixed fruit and veg stall just outside the indoor market and said traders such as herself could move inside under the plans.

She said: "We've spent an awful lot of money on these stalls... and it's just our livelihood."

The council said if the plans are accepted at Burton Town Hall, it would ensure "disruption to the market is minimised during any renovations".

It added that recent refurbishments "have shown that shoppers have returned in greater numbers, despite any disruptions during refurbishment works".

Head of finance and asset management Stephen Hinds said the authority had "repeatedly assured both traders and members of the public that the Market Hall will host a variety of market stalls, not just food related stalls".

He said: "The use of pop-up stalls won't reduce business as traders would have the option of leasing more than one stall and, as with current arrangements, storage is available."

Mr Hinds said the council had spent "many hours" reviewing the market traders proposal and its primary purpose "appears to push across the views of a small minority of traders" not the whole of the market.

He added: "We are particularly disappointed that the proposals offered no discussion to improve the diversity of the offer or how to attract new communities to the market - to the extent that the proposal removed the stall of the only trader from an ethnic minority."

Mrs Stanley added: "The lady who runs that ethnic stall selling jumpers and knitwear... we have her signature saying she was for the proposals... because we would have relocated her in one of the other stalls."

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