We paid a visit to closed Greater Manchester market and found traders in desperate need of help one week on
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Dozens of traders are still burdened by uncertainty with nowhere to trade more than a week after the sudden closure of Bury’s indoor market. At around 5pm on Thursday, October 26, Bury Council ordered the immediate closure of the building following surveys which showed the existence of RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) which had been used in the construction of the building in 1971.
The closure meant the sudden loss of selling space, though no fault of their own, for 49 traders, who operated from 62 units. The outdoor market and fish and meat hall have not been affected and are open as usual.
Bury Council said 16 units on the outside of the hall have now reopened and others will be opening up on the outdoor market and from pop-up stalls. The council has been having discussions with the Mill Gate shopping centre about accommodating a number of traders in their empty units, and in vacant units the council owns on Princess Parade.
Financially, the council has put a hold on all rent payments and business rates and has also agreed to provide traders, and their employees, with an emergency package of support, including a £300 food and fuel payment, and £100 council tax credit for those who pay in Bury. The council said these were initial emergency payments only, and they were working on a more substantial package of financial support to address specific costs related to the disruption.
The sudden closure has had a profound effect on dozens of people who relied on the market hall space for their livelihoods. Sole trader Chelsea Noone, 33, has run CC House of Beauty from a cabin in the indoor hall for the last five years and has worked on Bury Market since she was 13.
She says working there ‘is all I’ve ever known’. She said: “I’m distraught, I just feel desperate. All the work I’ve put into to my salon to get it going and I’ve had to take it all down because the roof’s unsafe.
“The council have said they’re look for a new place for me but nothing has come of that yet. There’s me and about 40 other traders still in limbo. There’s been a few people allocated stalls on the outdoor market but they’ve taken a hit of going from six days a week trading to three days a week.
“In the market hall I rely of a lot on the heavy footfall so if I move to another location it’s whether or not I get that footfall. I was allowed in under supervision wearing a hard hat to get anything valuable out.
“In the past week I’ve spent most of my time looking for other venues. I’ve been down to the market office today and also picked up a table so I can start doing some mobile work so I can see some of my customers. They had appointments and I feel like I can’t let them down.
“It’s touched me the support I’ve had. Many of my clients have said to me ‘don’t worry love – I’m not going anywhere else’. But it’s eight weeks to Christmas, my busiest time and I feel like I’m letting people down. I just want to get back to doing what I love.”
Tim Brierley has run Brierley’s Footwear for 34 years. His unit is on the periphery of the indoor hall, where some businesses can still trade. However, the access to his unit from the indoor hall is shuttered, stopping his main inflow of customers and he says shoppers are staying away from the area as the indoor hall is closed
He, said: “We seem to be just living in hope. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of help but a lot of promises. I’m 70 per cent down in takings this week – I know because I’m in the same spot. The 30 per cent are the customers that come to me all the time – my regulars.
“The rest of my business comes from being part of the indoor market – so that trade is all gone. With the shutters down at the back and people not coming from the indoor market I’m cut off.
“The market team here are doing their best. We were emailed the other day we’re allowed a £300 grant for hardship and with that we got links to the job centre for universal credit. I’m self employed – going on the dole is no use to me.
“This is worse than the lockdowns for me. The reason being that when we were affected by the pandemic, everybody was the same, it was a level playing field. I’m one of the little fish – but there’s big traders in that hall who take big money – I know butchers in there that two days before the closure had taken in some of their Christmas stock.”
Tim said he had not been given an indication as to when work on the roof would start to remedy the issue. Shopper Ron Roberts, 81, from Whitefield had called into Tim’s stall for a chat. He said: “I come here every Thursday to the market without fail.
“I’ve many friends on the stalls who I chat to and it’s heartbreaking not to see them this week and for them to have this disruption. I hope folk in Bury will rally round them. They deserve our support as the market is something to be proud of.”
Pete Whelan runs Pete’s Fruit and Veg, directly opposite the indoor market but unaffected by the closure. He said: “I feel for every one of the traders affected, it must be an awful, uncertain time.
“I think there’s an element that people are coming out to support the market after hearing about the partial closure. I can’t thank my customers enough for carrying on turning up.”
Coun Charlotte Morris, the council’s cabinet member for culture and the economy, said: “We understand that the sudden and unavoidable closure of the market hall has caused great concern and worry for the traders and their staff. “We have been working round the clock to find alternative accommodation so that they can continue to trade, and have been putting together a package of support. We are also in communication with traders every day to keep them informed.”
Bury Council said The Growth Hub is offering free and confidential one-to-one business advice and personal finance advice sessions. Advice will also be provided on claiming benefits if need be, along with counselling and mental health support for those struggling to cope.
Coun Morris added: “Despite the shock, traders have shown great understanding and resilience in coping with these unexpected events, and want to get back into business as soon as possible. “No one wanted this to happen, but we had to act urgently following the receipt of the surveyor’s report to ensure the safety of market traders and their customers.
“Following further investigations, we will announce what remedial work needs to be done, and what the timescale for that will be. In the meantime, I urge everyone to show your support for our traders and continue to come to our famous market.”