The Market Square

Cambridge Market Square

How should the Local Plan protect our heritage and ensure new development is well-designed ? Question from Local Plan consultation, see link below.

Open letter from Glenys Self, Cambridge Market Traders and The Friends of Cambridge Market Support Group

Subject: Market Matters with the market square project.
To: <>, Cllr Lewis Herbert (Cambridge City – Coleridge) <>, <>, Sarah French <>, Joel Carre <>,

Dear Rosy and Lewis,

I hope you are both well.

Thank you for agreeing to meet me.

I have copied people in for the sake of communicating things I have heard often and feel are the issues and aspirations with this market Sq project. I hope you will find this useful.  I am speaking for the shoppers and traders. The shoppers are the biggest stakeholders in the Market Square…. Millions of people love and use this market.

I would like to set down some issues, that hopefully we can cover one way or another, that are concerning the traders and shoppers about the future of the market, as I have heard.

1. The Consultation Issue

I strongly believe that the majority of traders are struggling to engage with the consultation prossess of the redevelopment of the Market Square.

This is for a number of very good reasons:-

a) They work so stupidly hard that they simply don’t have the time and energy to put into it. Also many live a long way away and/or have young families or old parents to look after… So no time and energy.

b) They have seen all this before and believe its not going to happen and so it’s ‘cry wolf’.

c) They don’t trust the process and see it as having a preordained conclusion. They say the council are going to do what they want anyway by gathering what is needed in such a way that it will give the council the power to do whatever it likes.

d) A lot of the traders come from other countries and are too scared to get involved in anything political as they fear deportation!

e) Although we set up the Cambridge Market Traders Ass they think that the few will sort things out for the many, so they don’t have to. They are willing to talk to the CMTA committee and expect it to represent them, as is traditional.

2. The Stall Issue

95% of the traders are behind retaining fixed stalls for crucial operational reasons. Some traders rise at 2am to either make or collect their fresh produce, some of which is local to Cambridge, while others go as far as London for example for their unique artisan produce. Some travel 2 hours to get here, as the fish mongers do, for example.

They do not want the extra hard work of having to erect stalls as well as this. A lot of the produce stalls trade 5,6 or 7 days a week and work 10 plus hours. They have huge customer bases and shoppers appreciate all their efforts. It’s what makes our market great and gives it its vibrant soul. These are attractive, clever businesses that could become inoperable of we don’t get the operational detail right for them. And what a great loss that would be to this great city. On the whole, most traders have said that they would not be able to cope with the extra work of the erection of non fixed stalls.

The petition I have raised to get the stalls renovated and given new or cleaned canopies was greeted by the traders with cheering! I will show you the signatures I collected in a few hours from them. But it is true to say that they would not be adverse to new substantial fixed stalls either.

Strangely too, the shoppers are mostly attached to these vintage stalls.

People say its a waste to get rid of them and I agree. They are sturdy, of a good size and give the market an airy attractive feel… i.e. not boxed in as Norwich market is for example.

Also I fear that we will lose a lot of the traders as they have said they won’t cope with putting up flimsy temporary stalls. They also say that they know of other markets that are frequently closed in windy weather because the stalls can’t withstand the windy conditions and render the stalls a liability. Did you know that? This point could perish the businesses.

Markets up and down the country are disappearing off the map because

their operational details have not been thought through and applied properly.

It is crucial that we get this stall issue right.

3. The Social Hub Issue

This would be lost if the market diminishes. This is the richest human asset we have.

you know this hub is such a fantastic centre to our city. It supports a community focus that is naturally inclusive, overcoming creed, culture, class, neuro diversity, interest, loneliness, mental health and age boundaries.

We are all so used to this brilliant mixing pot it’s almost as if we can’t see its beauty. It keeps Cambridge human. Lots of cities have lost this. We need to hang onto this human asset by its shirt tails with all our abilities.

4. The Old English Market Brand

People who live here, and people who come here buy into and love the myth and magic of ‘The Old English Market’ with its rustic warmth.

Its attraction is spoken of again and again by the shoppers. People often say they have come to Cambridge because they love the ‘Old English Market’. It makes no difference that its real or not….. It is a persona of a living historical heritage continuum that is important here. Its biggest attraction is its continuity and connection to the past going back 1000 plus years. It thrills visitors and works hand-in-hand with the beauty of the old colleges.

Again we are so used to it, it becomes almost invisible to us as we take it for granted. But again we can’t afford to lose it. The design of the market needs to take this into consideration because if it is lost by a replacement of an unsightly sea of flimsy tempory market stalls, this city would have lost one of its finest features.

5.The Ongoing Market Maintenance Funding Issue… to keep the market looking pretty. 

I hear that funding is tight.

We have a brilliant venue for fund raising. It’s the market. We could run a stall selling Up-cycled merchandise to fund the market’s day to day needs.

We could run workshops/trading stalls with apprenticeships for youngsters to learn Up-cycling or crafts of a Monday and a Tuesday when the stalls are empty and rents are cheap. We could give ex art students or anyone a bridge into commerce. Up-cycling is the future.Locally produced crafts is the future. A sense of meaning and a sense of depth. For example, when we get new canvasses, the old canvases could easily be made into panniers for bikes and big beach bags… … The money from this could go to fund the upkeep of the market, so it never again falls into the shameful, miserable state it has been in this past few years. Again The City would support us and be proud of us. People love this sense of meaningful connection. Ie it all the time on my stall.

6. The Issue of Antisocial Behaviour on the market at night. 

Enforce the rule that all vertical sheeting on the stalls must be tied up or taken off every night.

Make the stalls so people can sit in them of a night time.. Make it attractive and inviting with pretty lighting….

Drunks, it has been proven, will even respect a well cared for venue.

Whereas, they will tend to trash areas that have a sense of neglect and disrepair.

There have been academic papers written proving this point.

7. The Issue of the Market staying in the Sq during improvements or needing to move in the event of underground structural work. 

The traders want to stay trading on the Square. During improvements, unless there are underground structural works that need carrying out.

In the event of needing to move please can we go into Pease Hill and Gt St Mary’s passage. And the other spaces around the GuildHall where trading is permitted, so we stay together in the centre of the city.

8. The Issue of Traders Rights. 

Please can we have the question mark in the Feasibility Retort, 4.5(?), that hangs over the traders concerning our rights, taken away by the certainty of a Common Law and Custom and Practice document, enshrined in the future SPD.

We can’t suddenly be put on the other side of the table over this issue. We need to work on it together and come to an agreement over it along side everything else.

The point that says the Traders can be given a 3 week notice of leave, is hostile and not conducive to cordial relations.

I have been advised that this would not stand up in a Court of Law against Common Law Rights, where, for example, a stall is second or third generation or has even traded for a few years… But that isn’t the point… We need you, our caring landlords, to look after us. Not vie us up for who has got what rights and who hasn’t. . It’s not a very nice way to treat people who have served this city’s community by doing their best for generations trading in all weathers.

9.The Issues of change for change sake. 

I have heard it said by one shopper,

“Don’t tinker with what works well!”.

This market functions well as a commercial asset giving the City Purse a £300k return. This could well deminish if the market perishes.

10. The Issue of funding. 

The Friends of Cambridge Market want to know what funding is coming from where. They said you should know this by now.

I will bring any other points people have about any other issues to the meeting.

Thank you

Glenys Self

Friends of Cambridge Market

CMTA rep

NMFA liaison person

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *