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Chester market traders receive 'compensation' over bus station move

But Tory opposition claim 'rental holiday' only necessary because Labour council took its eye off the ball

Chester Market is struggling.

Chester market traders are being given a three month ‘rental holiday’ due to lost income caused by relocating bus services to Gorse Stacks but the subsidy has attracted Tory criticism.

Details of the deal were supplied by Cllr Brian Clarke (Winsford Wharton), cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, in response to a question by Labour colleague Cllr Richard Beacham (Newton) at a full meeting of Cheshire West and Chester Council.

He said: “In recognition of the immediate challenges faced by market traders, market tenants have been offered a three month ‘rental holiday’, to provide immediate financial mitigation of the relocation of the bus exchange.”

Husband and wife team, councillors Stuart and Margaret Parker (Image: Sallie Ehlen)

But Tory deputy council leader Margaret Parker (Chester Villages), who had already got wind of the compensation scheme, criticised the Labour administration for failing to support market traders at the point when the old bus station closed. The area is being freed up to create space for the first phase of the £300m Northgate Development.

She told a recent cabinet meeting: “Why was no consideration given to the market traders by the opening of the new bus interchange when we know from the past that any disruption in the city centre impacts on the market the most? Why was this not thought through this time? We now face a further subsidy from the public purse because no one was on the ball.

The Shopper Hopper links the old and new bus stations to support traders in the market hall and Northgate Street area.

“Can market traders in Ellesmere Port, Northwich and Winsford expect the same and has budget provision been made in case?”

There has also been criticism from CH1ChesterBID company that mitigation measures were not in place apart from the free Shopper Hopper bus that links the old and new bus station sites.

But the written response to Cllr Beacham made clear behind-the-scenes discussions have been taking place for a while even if not all the ideas have come to fruition.

Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure

And Cllr Clarke told The Chronicle the rental holiday option was 'already in the pipeline' and denied it was a panic measure.

He added: "Northgate is a fantastic project going forward. There will be some short term issues but everything is going to be brilliant in Chester."

He said the council had put in a series of measures including:

■ Asking private coach drivers to drop visitors off at the old bus station site

■ Developing an advertising campaign including leaflets, newsletter showcasing traders, radio campaign and social media activity

■ Introducing new signage to direct people to the market

The council is also looking at hosting events and pop-up markets in the old bus station space but all initiatives will be discussed and agreed with traders and ‘will not compete with the market but will complement their offer’ with the aim of driving up footfall.

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