DESPERATE stallholders want Chester Market to be moved into the city’s library.
When the ambitious Northgate Development was first announced in 2000, traders were promised the ageing Princess Street market hall would be replaced.
But, more than 10 years later and with numerous schemes having failed to get off the ground, stallholders are growing increasingly worried for the market’s future.
With the council planning to move the library into the proposed new £40.5 million theatre in the nearby former Odeon Cinema on Northgate Street, Chester Market Traders’ Association believes moving the market into the library would be the perfect solution.
Association chairman John Sheldon said: “What we want is an undercover walk-through market and the library would be an ideal position for us.
“We would be on a major route with lots of passing trade. You look at the market in Manchester and it works for them.
“We should have moved into a new market hall five or six years ago and we need to know what the council’s plans are now.
“The regular customers pay our rent but the regulars are dying off and at the moment nobody is replacing them.”
Last week it was confirmed the Co-operative supermarket in the Forum shopping centre was closing sparking fresh fears over the market’s future.
Mr Sheldon, who runs a fruit and vegetable stall in the market, said the current mood among traders was “depressed”.
He said: “We have been getting dangled along for donkey’s years and we have not been able to plan for anything. We have been left in the dark and at the moment we are more isolated than ever.
“The Forum is empty and there is no passing trade any more. Some people who come to Chester don’t even know that we have a market.
“We used to be kept in the loop and meetings arranged but it seems as if we are being ignored even more than we used to be.”
Chester Market was based next to the Town Hall for more than 100 years before moving to Princess Street in the late 1960s.
But, over the past decade, the number of stalls has fallen and the condition of the current building has deteriorated as planned city centre redevelopments have failed to get off the ground.
The council had proposed building an £8m two-storey market on Frodsham Street car park but that scheme proved unpopular with traders and was shelved.
Earlier this year the council took control of the £460 million Northgate Development after ending an agreement with ING Real Estate Developers.
Councillors have indicated they would be prepared to move the market to the library site but no firm proposals have yet been put forward.
Council spokesman Ian Callister said: “The council has gone on record to saying it is committed to establishing a Chester market in the centre of the city.”