Instead of fixing the market hall’s leaky roof the council has paid for lots of little roofs on individual stalls – complete with gutters and downpipes.
The long-standing problem means every time there is a deluge the buckets come out to catch the drips, stock is at risk and the floor gets damaged.
There has been a reluctance to spend too much on roof repairs because of plans to relocate the market hall as part of the Northgate Development. A waterproof coating was applied in 2000 but to no avail.
Traders have welcomed the £37,000 new -look stalls and are happy their stock will now be protected but accept the ‘roof under a roof’ concept appears ‘ridiculous’.
“Before the roof was up here the rain would come through on your stock,” said David Payne, of Jim’s Haberdashery, who is also the vice chairman of the Chester branch of the National Market Traders Federation.
“It does look better, it’s improved the aesthetics, but they’re not tackling what the main issue is. The main issue is the fact the roof leaks everywhere and they are refusing to do that because of moving the market due to the costs.”
Mr Payne, who is sceptical about whether Northgate will ever happen, added: “It does look ridiculous. You’re sat inside a market hall, with drainpipes inside a stall.”
Mr Payne has lost stock from his storeroom in the past due to water damage. He said stallholders paid a service charge and the building ‘should be maintained to a certain standard’.
The refurbishment of casual stalls involved council contractors installing light oak stained timber frames complete with attractive red felt roofs. One workman told The Chronicle the guttering was purely for the ‘look’ of the units but a repeat visit revealed they were actually plumbed into traders’ sinks.
Dave Haagar, of David James Jewellers, who accepted the new stalls “improved the look of the market”, added: “The main reason why they’ve put all the roofs and the guttering up is they have to pay a lot of money out to traders for damaged stock so that’s eliminated that problem.”
Mr Haagar is more concerned about plans to close the Princess Street bus station and relocate bus services to Gorse Stacks as part of the Northgate Development plan.
“Our trade is 75% dependent on bus travellers so if they take the buses away we could potentially lose 75% of our trade. It’s not just bad for us it’s bad for this whole side of town,” he said.
Cheshire West and Chester Council spokeswoman Rachel Ashley said the roof had not been repaired because the cost was “prohibitive” – likely to run into multi-millions – given the Forum was due to be demolished. She said the main purpose of the refurbishment was to upgrade the casual market stalls, but added: “It does incorporate guttering and down pipes to divert the water away if it comes through the roof, so it doesn’t affect the stock.”