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Thursday traders protest at council plan to lease market
TRADERS say their expertise has been ignored after council bosses failed to consult on plans to outsource a market.
Oxford City Council last week announced that it has agreed to lease Gloucester Green market to a company called Geraud UK and LSD Promotions.
The deal will lead to a £150,000 investment in the market, with new stalls and publicity on the agenda.
Last week traders at the main Wednesday market welcomed the change.
But stallholders who trade on a Thursday claim their expertise and advice has been ignored by the council.
They believe the council has not done enough to keep them informed about the market that they are working in.
Summertown resident Gary Merrill, 49, runs a stall every Thursday selling vintage maps.
The former journalist, who lectures at the University of Gloucestershire, said one example of an issue traders could have given advice on was the new stalls.
He said: “They have had the same stalls for 23 years and people are used to them. “For example, they have bars on them which I hang things on, and I don’t know if I will be able to do that with the new ones.
“It is just like getting a new shop.”
But he said many of the Thursday traders, who sell antiques and crafts, are unhappy because they feel their voice is not being heard.
He added: “Over the past six to 12 months, there have been lots of shared concerns.
“The major one at the moment is that the council has just completely ignored the traders. I think what has happened is shocking.
“All we’ve heard is gossip. We heard nothing from the council and knew nothing about it.
“The point is not just that we are all council taxpayers and voters, but we are also all traders and there is a lot of expertise in the market which could have been used.
“We don’t have a problem with the new company. They are an unknown to us.”
Mr Merrill also revealed that a letter drafted by Geraud and given to traders with a council letter on August 29 was dated August 15.
This prompted him to question why it was not sent out sooner.
Artist Andrew Manson, 23, of Botley, sells his paintings and prints at the market every Thursday.
He said: “There has been a lack of information and when things change people do get very worried.
“I am all for the idea of someone else taking on the running of the market, but we have heard very little about it until very recently.”
Witney resident Michael Benfield, 67, sells guitars, CDs and bric-a-brac at the market.
He said: “We do feel they haven’t used the expertise in the market. I’ve been there for 12 years and the guy next to me has been there for 23 years.
“It would have been nice to have been a bit better informed about what was going to happen.
“To be honest, it feels like we’ve had it hanging over us for a couple of years now. “Because of the rumours something was going to happen, but we didn’t know anything until recently.”
The new management deal looks set to come into force at the start of October.
Council spokesman Christopher Lee said: “Geraud/LSD submitted the best proposals for a partnership with the council to work with the traders to take forward and develop the market, including new investment in stalls and promotion.
“The operator of the Thursday market and traders [although not the traders quoted here] put in unsuccessful bids. “The council understands that they are disappointed to have not been successful with their bid. A full debrief is always offered to unsuccessful bidders.
“All traders were aware that the council was seeking a partner. “The traders were notified by letter at the earliest opportunity, as soon as the new partner was selected. “There is a handover period, but Geraud/LSD are already on site meeting traders and discussing their plans. “Assurances on support for the market and keeping the current rents policy have already been given.”
The spokesman added that both the council and Geraud/LSD want to see the market flourish.
He said that the plans for new investment and promotion will offer the potential for more shoppers and better business for traders.
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