Our market acquired its Charter in 1553 but a market had been operating in the City since at least 860AD. It is an important part of our heritage. It brings people into the City and it is so sad to see it in its current poor state. Covid restrictions meant lower numbers and stall holders provided their own gazebos or stalls but why no progress since then?
After an uncomfortable period in 2021, when a permanent move to gazebos was proposed, the Council decided in February 2022 to run a pilot with a mixture of gazebos and stalls, all in the City colours. A competition was announced to appoint an external provider to run the market. Following the press release on 3 February a further announcement was made in June that the new hybrid market would open on 7 September 2022.
Astonishingly the invitations to tender were not issued until September –meaning the 7 September opening was impossible, though we were not told. We now know that the disappointing outcome of that exercise is that no tenders were considered suitable, so back to Square One.
The Council then decided to run the market themselves and have about 35 gazebos in St Albans colours which they plan to roll out to existing stall holders with a review in June 2023 to consider whether funds are available to buy the promised stalls. And, if so, will then need to arrange erection and dismantling. There is no sign of that happening and the market continues to struggle with frequent gaps between the stalls and inconsistent and haphazard layout.
This is so disappointing – not just the delays and the failures but also the absence of communication to let people know what is happening, especially when the news is not good. So much time has been lost. The hybrid market promised in February 2022 will not happen for a long time, if ever and in the meantime the market continues to decline.
A huge effort will be needed to increase the number of stalls to anything like the pre-Covid numbers. There is little evidence that this is happening and the concern is that our Charter market continues to decline?