A ROW which has soured the high-profile relocation of a Northumberland street market could be resolved after local shopkeepers gave their backing to aggrieved market traders.
Ashington’s Tuesday market was switched from a car park area to the town’s pedestrianised shopping precinct two months ago in a bid to boost its fortunes and attract more business.
The move was immediately hit by controversy when food traders working from large vans were barred from going on to the new site.
It was argued the vans would spoil the appearance and character of the new-look market – and resulted in several traders being forced to stay on the old John Street site.
Now county council bosses are set to agree a compromise, and carry out a three-month trial during which the specialist vans will be allowed onto the new location.
Market traders have submitted a 155-name petition to the council calling for the decision to ban the vans to be reversed.
And a survey of businesses in the town centre has also backed the traders, amid claims that more people are visiting the shopping centre since the market was relocated.
Next week the council’s south east area committee will be recommended to allow traders’ vans in, with the situation being reviewed after three months.
Ashington market was relocated as part of a new strategy to promote and improve Northumberland’s traditional street markets.
It has since been split over the two sites because of the ruling that traders such as a butcher and fishmonger could not use their large refrigerated vans.
Yesterday Michael Nicholson, national treasurer of the Market Traders’ Federation and secretary of the Blyth branch, welcomed the trial.
He said: “I have been party to these discussions and worked with the traders and council to try to reach a solution.
“I am confident the trial will prove successful and show that these specialist vans should be allowed on the new Ashington site.
“Virtually every local shopkeeper was in favour of the vans because they have picked up business since the market moved.
“These are specialist vehicles which can cost £50,000 and are built for trading. They are very good to look at and will enhance the market, not look unsightly.” A report to next week’s meeting says the market has been given new stalls and a traditional look, and the decision to ban trading from vans was intended to prevent a “car boot appearance”.
“There is still a desire to avoid the market looking like a car boot sale, but the steering group are inclined to permit specialist vans onto the market on a trial basis,” it adds.
It is proposed that during the trial, a maximum of four specialist vans will be allowed to trade, and they must be specially designed for the type of goods they are selling.