Market stall traders in Chichester say coronavirus and council leaders’ response to the pandemic have decimated their businesses – and put them at risk of collapse.
Many of these markets were granted royal charters in the Middle Ages and it was the right to host these markets which distinguished it from a village or city.
In historic Chichester, which has had market traders in its city centre for 1,000 years, operators say they are ‘fuming because they have been booted out and relocated to a car park’.
Nick Warren 59, who has been selling towels and linenware at his stall in the city for the past 30 years, fears the move will close his business.
He said: “I didn’t know they were going to move the market here. I need to be in the city centre. Out here, my footfall is down by 80 per cent.
“My regular customers from the city centre who managed to find me here told me they had thought the market was still shut and they hadn’t realised we’d been moved to a car park until they found us by chance.
“We need it moved back to the street, where people expect it to be.”
Andy Matthie, 62, who has been at Chichester market selling shoes since he was 18, said: “We’ve been forgotten. I genuinely feel the council has let the people of Chichester down. People have been used to a Wednesday market in the town for years.
“It’s central and bring lots of people into the centre of the town, which benefits everyone – shoppers, retailers and the market traders alike.
“It also means it’s easier for the elderly to reach the market. I’ve seen some of my regulars be dropped off in a taxi, but they are not happy about it. We’ve seen footfall drop by well over 25 per cent and that means our takings are down substantially also. We can’t carry on like this.
“Other towns, like Fareham, Winchester, Little Hampton, Waterlooville and others have successfully bought back their town centre markets, so why won’t Chichester council support this historic market in the same way. Being in the car park is a disaster, they are going to kill it off.”
Sam Theuma, who manages the market for Bray Associates, says that although the company paid the council fees in advance for the year to site stalls in the city centre – in North Street and East Street – traders were moved to the car park ‘with little or no consultation with Bray Assoc or the stallholders’.
Chichester city and district councillor Sarah Sharp said: “We have a Covid-19 city centre recovery group and we hope to have a market representation on this.
“The market should be in the town centre where it’s available to everyone. It has been reported there are around 400 markets in the UK under threat, we must make sure this historic market isn’t one of them. The market can also offer people who may have lost their jobs, to have an avenue to start their own business and be able to make a living.
“I fully support bring the market back to the centre streets and disappointed some of my council colleagues aren’t doing more to rectify the situation before we lose any more traders.”