Market traders surveyed on possible switch to town centre

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A SUGGESTION that Larne’s Wednesday market should be temporarily transferred to the town centre for the duration of restoration work at the Market Yard has been broadly welcomed by stall-holders.

Larne Borough Council intends to forge ahead with a £1.4 million regeneration of the Circular Road premises. The scheme, which is currently out for tender, will see the upgrade of the main shed, the refurbishment of the market house and restoration of the auction house.

While this work is being carried out, the local authority has proposed moving the market to an alternative venue. And while no location has yet been agreed, Larne alderman Winston Fulton has suggested that Broadway could be an ideal site to house the market on a temporary basis.

“I have been approached by residents who feel that the Wednesday market is not attracting enough stall-holders, hence less people are coming to the market,” he said.

“A lot of elderly people find it difficult to get to the market, as it is quite far for them to walk to from the town centre. But if it was located at Broadway, more people may be attracted to it. Other towns such as Cookstown have a thriving market in the town centre, so why can’t the same thing be done in Larne?”

Local trader Ronnie Brown, who runs The Fruit Centre and World of Flowers on Main Street, also feels Broadway would be a suitable place to host the market.

“I have no problem with the market coming to the town centre, in fact I would support it. It would bring more shoppers into the town, which in turn may lead to my store getting a boost in trade,” he said

The Times asked stall-holders at the Market Yard for their thoughts on the possible move to the town centre, and many of them gave the idea their full backing.

Edward Murray, a fishmonger from Portavogie, has been trading at the Market Yard for the past four years and has seen his sales decline drastically during that period.

“I am hanging on by the skin of my teeth in Larne, week after week,” he told the Times.

“I pay £15-a-week to keep a stall at the Market Yard and travel about 50 miles to get here, but I am getting very little out of it. The main problem is that the market is not well enough promoted. You could drive past and not even know it was there.

“And for those that do come along, there is not even anywhere to sit down and grab a coffee. It really is a wasted opportunity.

“Things have been made even more difficult for stall holders since the opening of the Asda store, which in my opinion is the worst thing that has ever happened to small traders in this town.

“The only way to attract more people to the markets is to have it smack-bang in the middle of the town centre. It has worked for other towns in Northern Ireland.

“There is no sense in the council spending millions of pounds tarting up the place if it can’t attract more stalls. The council should be encouraging new people to set up here by offering them a rent-free trial for a couple of weeks,” Mr Murray added.

Ballymena man David Gordon, who runs a hardware stall at the market, also felt the council’s plans to refurbish the facility was “pointless”.

“I don’t think this place needs a lot of money spent on it. People like it because it is a traditional market, so just give it a bit of a tidy-up and a lick of paint,” he added.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with the market being moved temporarily, but I don’t think Broadway is the best place for it. It is not sheltered and there is very little space for stall holders to park their vehicles. And if we started parking along the Main Street, shop owners would complain that their customers cannot get parked nearby. In my opinion, the old Woodsides premises would be a better location.”

One customer at the market also expressed her support for the proposed move to the town centre.

She told the Times: “I live in Whiteabbey and really enjoy coming into Larne to shop. My husband and I think the town centre is lovely and bright and there are plenty of good shops, which are all within easy walking distance of each other.

“However, I have to say that I was not terribly impressed with the market. It is too far out of the town centre and there isn’t much there to look at. I think moving it a bit closer to the shops would be a fantastic idea,” she added.

However, one stall-holder felt there was no need to relocate the market during the planned refurbishment.

John Kinney from Cushendall, who runs a free-range pork stall, said: “I think there is plenty of space in the yard to allow the work to be carried out without having to relocate anyone. In fact, I have always said that there is far too much space between each of the stalls, and they should all be moved closer together.”

Fruit and veg vendor David Speers, a Larne man who has operated a stall at the market for the past two decades said: “This market has been going downhill for years, long before Asda came along. The only thing that I can think of that would help liven up the place a bit would be for car boot sale to be held alongside the market.”

n Should the Wednesday Market be temporarily moved to the town centre during the planned refurbishment of the Market Yard?

Let us know your views on this issue. Email news@larnetimes.co.uk or contact us by post at 8 Dunluce Street, Larne, BT40 1JG.