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Star campaign to save Ipswich market

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:14 03 March 2010

IPSWICH market has been part of the town's scenery since before the royal charter was granted by King John in the year 1200.

However more than 800 years of tradition could come to an end by Easter unless there's a major change of heart by the political masters at Civic Centre.

IPSWICH market has been part of the town's scenery since before the royal charter was granted by King John in the year 1200.

However more than 800 years of tradition could come to an end by Easter unless there's a major change of heart by the political masters at Civic Centre.

As they look out of their offices on to the market every Tuesday and Friday, politicians and council officers know they won't have to look at the stalls for much longer.

The market operating from the staff car park at Civic Centre is on its last legs. The 74 stalls of 18 years ago has dwindled to just nine – seven on Saturdays when the council offices are closed.

Only a hard-core of market-users are left – there's no passing trade as no one "passes through" a market sent to a site on the edge of oblivion by a council apparently ashamed of it.

Now the last stallholders are trying a last-ditch attempt to stay in town by moving to the Cornhill in the very heart of Ipswich.

The borough can only find objections to their request – and hold out the hope of something better when a new shopping centre is built.

But that could be many years away, if it is ever built – and by that time the traders say none of them will be left in Ipswich.

They applied for planning permission for the market to move back to its spiritual home – the Cornhill – last year.

In October council officers said it would be possible for some stalls to move there under strict conditions.

However councillors decided they were unable to make a decision, deferred it – and the matter hasn't been debated since.

Now the council has consulted lawyers who have come up with a raft of excuses why the market cannot move to the Cornhill.

nThe market cannot operate on highways because it would block them – and markets can only operate on highways if they have already done so continuously for more than 20 years.

nMuch of the Cornhill is a highway.

nLloyd's Avenue is a highway – even though it is a no through road with little traffic near the arch.

nIf the roads were formally closed as highways, the land would have to revert to its previous owners – but as they've been roads since the Middle Ages it might be difficult to establish the land's previous owner!

nStreet trading licences can be granted to individual stall-holders – that's why hot food stalls can operate on the side of the road.

The council claims that an entire charter market cannot operate on a series of street trading licences – but there are only nine stall-holders left.

nIf the council was to "turn a blind eye" to stall holders and allow them to operate on the Cornhill without specific permission, there could be a legal challenge. "There are some very litigious people about," said Mr Smart.

The council has discovered a host of legal quirks associated with moving the market to the Cornhill, all of which work to stab the market traders in the back.

How can streets from which all traffic is banned be classified as highways – preventing any other use?

Why isn't it possible to have stalls on the Cornhill so long as enough space is left for emergency vehicles to reach the area? In Bury St. Edmunds and other towns, successful markets operate by blocking streets completely – without problems.

Is there really a desire to save the market in Ipswich? The politicians might like the idea of having a market in the town – but are they really concerned if it collapses?

Or have they seen that only a few people use it, only a few make the trip out of the town centre to buy their goods there – and have calculated that there aren't too many votes to be lost if it does collapse?

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