NEW signs proposed for the Covered Market to boost trade have been condemned as “absolutely mad”.

Oxford city councillors on the west area planning committee described the city council-designed signs as “completely unimaginative”.

They said the signs were not in keeping with the Victoria city centre market and have deferred the planning application for a total redesign.

The scheme would have seen four replacement signs, reading ‘Market’, installed above the High Street avenues and a banner and large sign, both reading ‘Covered Market’, installed in Market Street.

Covered Market Traders’ Association chairman Chris Farren, owner of The Cake Shop, said: “I am bitterly disappointed because this has been a year in the making and now we have another delay.

“We are trying to attract more people into the market because the footfall is pretty atrocious at the moment.”

He added: “The existing High Street signs can only be seen from the other side of the road. If you are walking along High Street they do not stand out.

“The new signs were certainly better than the ones up there now.”

He said the signs had been designed by the city council’s conservation department.

John Partington, owner of Chocology, said: “The signs are not so imaginative but they are better than what is there now, which are terrible. Millions of tourists happily walk down the High Street and they have no idea that a busy, independent market exists because they do not know where it is.

“We need every little bit of help we can get.”

Trader Joy Hetherington, owner of Oxford Aromatics, said: “People do not know we are here at the moment – the footfall is terrible.

“We need as much encouragement for people to come into this market as possible.”

But committee chairman Oscar Van Nooijen, at the planning meeting, said council officers had not taken into account the Victorian design of the building when creating the signs.

He said: “It is completely unimaginative. It is what I would expect my 12-year-old history students to do.

“If you are going to attach signage it needs to be of a style that relates to the building, which is austere, has symmetry to it and does not call for anything spindly or gold.

“Right now it is bad signage, that is not an excuse to replace it with equally bad signage.”

Councillor Anne-Marie Canning said: “It is totally inappropriate.

“Anyone who knows anything about communication or branding, to have ‘Market’ on one side and ‘Covered Market’ on the other is absolutely mad.”

The listed building planning application, once agreed by the city council, will need to be granted by the Secretary of State because the council is the applicant.