Parking problems put off market customers

PUBLISHED: 13:10 07 September 2006 | UPDATED: 10:48 06 May 2010

Alison Kempster

Alison Kempster

FOLLOWING our report last week about the possible closure of Baldock market, The Comet took to the streets of Baldock to find out what residents think could account for its demise and the possible solutions for its rejuvenation. Louise McEvoy reports. BA

Jean Watson

FOLLOWING our report last week about the possible closure of Baldock market, The Comet took to the streets of Baldock to find out what residents think could account for its demise and the possible solutions for its rejuvenation. Louise McEvoy reports.

BALDOCK held its first market in 1199 but, despite being able to accommodate 66 pitches on the High Street, our photographer snapped just eight stalls last Wednesday.

This is part of a growing trend as the market, established more than 800 years ago, has struggled to attract traders and customers for the past five years.

John Simon

Wendy Fair Markets Ltd, based in Ruislip, Middlesex, took over the running of the market from North Herts District Council in April and has more than 30 years experience.

The company now faces an uphill struggle in trying to attract traders and customers in what appears to be a Catch 22 situation.

Parked cars and the huge Tesco superstore are the main causes for Baldock market's decline, according to residents.

And organic food and a European market are just two weapons that could be used to combat the problem.

Joyce Hart

Kate Romano, pictured left with Louie and Olivia, said: "If there were more stalls selling fresh food then I would come into Baldock. There has to be enough to make people stop here. In fact, I don't even notice the market at the moment. Anything organic and I think we would get everyone flocking to it. We need something that's a bit different."

Sharon Cooper, pictured with her daughter Emma, said: "I think it's good to have a market in Baldock but I think parking is difficult. I think more stalls would also be good. I don't bother going because I don't know if the same stall will be there twice. If there were more stalls I would use it more regularly."

Paul Noel and wife Anne

Paul Noel said: "I think it's nice to have local produce. It's a good focus to have but maybe we could have a French or Italian market too. Like anything, we need to pump energy into it."

His wife, Anne, said: "I used to use the market every day when the children were young but there's not a lot of point coming now because there's only two or three stalls. I think that's why traders don't come either, so it's a bit like the chicken and the egg. I certainly won't come into Baldock on a Wednesday morning because there's nothing here. I think Tesco is perhaps one of the reasons the market has declined."

Sharon Cooper with her daughter Emma

Joyce Hart said: "We need more stalls and we need to keep parked cars out of it. At the moment cars park in between stalls and it doesn't improve the market at all because people can't see the stalls properly. I think Tesco has a lot to do with Baldock market's downfall. People can't park in Baldock so they park in Tesco and, having parked there, they shop there. I don't think markets are as popular as they were 10 or 20 years ago. We used to have lots of stalls cheek by jowl."

John Simon said: "I remember the time when there were two rows of stalls and it was well patronised. The cost of the pitches has a lot to do with it. If traders only have half a dozen customers they won't want to pay out for it. I don't think traders should have to pay anything."

Kate Romano with Louie and Olivia

Jean Watson said: "I don't think we could do without a market but I can see why its going the way it is. The young people don't use it. They all go to the supermarket but the old people would miss the market. Also, when there are so many parked cars it's hard to find the stalls. It does look bad."

Alison Kempster said: "I think there is always a need for a market and we have had it for a long time. I use it but I think it needs to be improved. It needs more there to attract people.

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