The Market Hall, alongside much of the country, closed its doors back in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK. Now, the market is set to reopen its doors on Tuesday 7th July, subject to final approval.
Since the Government announced the easing of lockdown, Derby City Council has been working to safely reopen the historic building – currently undergoing a multi-million pound transformation – but it’s not been plain sailing. Many non-essential retailers were able to reopen their doors from Monday 15th June, this was not possible with the enclosed Market Hall.
Rachel North, Strategic Director of Communities and Place said;
“We’ve been working with businesses and partners across the city to support their reopening earlier in the month, but safely reopening hasn’t been possible for all businesses.
“Government has been clear that retailers may only reopen if they are ‘COVID secure’, and for some places this is practically difficult, as you need the space and resources to manage that.”
The Market Hall is currently undergoing a major transformation, with significant roof repairs, and proposals to create an exciting space offering an attractive, flexible retail and leisure destination.
Ms North continued;
“Facilitating the reopening of the Market Hall has been really challenging for a number of reasons.
“The transformation is of huge significance for the city, but work in the building has meant less physical space for us to work with due to scaffolding and works access, naturally making it more difficult to socially distance, and reopen safely.
“We’ve been working really hard on solutions, so we can reopen as quickly as possible for traders – I can see why people think it should just be a case of opening the doors and making people shop one way, but practically there is much more to consider and – though it’s difficult for traders – safety simply must remain our top priority.”
The reopening of non-essential retailers was announced on 25th May, giving councils and retailers less than three weeks to plan and implement safety measures across entire cities.
“I think there’s a misconception that councils have known the date for highstreets reopening for months, but that’s simply not the case – we find out through the Prime Minister’s daily briefings just like everyone else, and have to interpret those announcements, and spring into action,” she said.
Since the announcement, Council officers have been exploring a number of options to reopen the market, including resources to manage the number of customers, and flow of visitors to the market, while also looking at alternative solutions like moving onto the Market Place which was deemed not possible.
Ms North concluded;
“Coronavirus has, as you’d expect, reduced the number of people we have at work, so we have redeployed staff to project manage the reopening of the Market Hall – this really is a priority for us, and having someone to focus on this has really helped and ultimately led to us being able to reopen on 7th July.
“We’re now going to be working with the traders to help them with the risk assessments and preparations necessary to reopen.”
Traders have been written to today informing them of the update, and a meeting is planned next week to discuss the reopening.
As the lead Cabinet Member for Markets, and President-elect of the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA), Cllr Mick Barker has voiced his concerns about the reopening of the market. Earlier in the month he wrote an open letter to traders, showing his support.
“Traders have understandably been extremely frustrated at the delay in reopening. I share their frustrations. This is their livelihood – many of these businesses have been passed down from generation to generation – the last thing I want to see is well respected and historic businesses penalised, or worse, fail.
“I’ve been pushing for the Market Hall to reopen from the 15th June like every other retailer, but I’ve been told it’s not possible for a number of reasons, so I’m pleased to see we finally have a solution to allow the Market Hall to reopen safely.”
The Council is conducting a survey to find out what impact COVID-19 has had on local businesses, in a bid to have them shape plans to kick-start the local economy post-lockdown, and to understand what support they need. The survey can be completed online.
If approval is given on Monday, the Market Hall will reopen on Tuesday 7th July, subject to sufficient COVID-19 safety measures being in place. A one-way system will be in operation, as well as specific safety measures at individual stalls.
The reopening will be regularly reviewed, ensuring it remains feasible to keep the market open during lockdown.