Mixed views as revamp of Devizes' Shambles market planned

Shambles trader Bill Huntly is uncertain about a proposal to put new units into the market

Shambles trader Bill Huntly is uncertain about a proposal to put new units into the market

First published in News by , Devizes area senior reporter

Plans to revamp The Shambles indoor market in Devizes by installing business units has met with a mixed response from traders and councillors.

Wiltshire Council owns The Shambles but says income has dropped by 17 per cent in the last four years compared to other markets it runs where income has risen by 44 per cent over the same period.

Tom Ince, team leader at the council’s environment services, claims The Shambles has an image problem.

The council is proposing to put in 14 units at the rear of The Shambles, about half of the market space, and install wi-fi, at a cost of £140,000.

He told a Devizes Town Council meeting: “We are seeing an increase in transient traders resulting in high turnover, for example trading at weekends only. The biggest challenge is the image of The Shambles among traders and the public.

“I think the perception is it is a car boot venue and we want to turn it into a professional presentable market. We have challenged the traders to come up with a minimum standard of presentation to try and make stalls look more professional.

“We need to work together as a team if the market is going to be successful and survive. Units would look more professional and will enhance the appearance and image of the venue.”

Wiltshire Council runs markets there on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday and Monday trader Bill Huntly runs the Old Curiosity Market, which he has done for 20 years.

Mr Huntly, of Rowde, said: “I’m not against change as long as it’s change for the right reasons.

"We have core traders and some transient traders, including people who are start-up businesses, amateurs who are selling items after clearing out a garden shed and professional dealers. Footfall on Sundays and Mondays is good.

“I don’t think the Old Curiosity Market looks like a car boot sale. We have an eclectic mix of stalls including collectables, antiques and bric a brac and we try and run it as professionally as possible.

"Are units going to take away the charisma of this wonderful building? The jury’s out.”

Florist Cathy Stockwell, of Devizes, quit her stall in The Shambles after eight months last Thursday because it wasn’t successful enough for her. She is now working from home.

She said: “Year on year the footfall is dropping. I went to The Shambles because I couldn’t afford to go into a shop because of the rates.

"The Shambles is such a beautiful building and it could be so amazing. The council need to promote The Shambles.”

She welcomed the units proposal but thought they ought to be in the entire building.

Town councillor Peter Evans supports the idea of units saying: “The market is slowly dying. On a Friday it is very, very quiet. On a Saturday it could be good or it could be bad.”

But Coun Andy Geddes was unsure: “It’s proposing a fundamental change to the building to something more akin to an indoor shopping mall.”

The next stage is for Wiltshire Council to submit a planning application.

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