PLANS to revamp the centre of Swansea Market are meeting opposition from some traders who work there.
The council has just finished a consultation on proposals to create a seating and exhibition area near the cockle rotunda in a bid to boost footfall.
It put forward two designs: a pergola theme with greenery and a curving glass roof – mirroring the market’s roof – and the other with suspended sails and decorative trees.
There would be phone and laptop power points, a toddler area, water for dogs, and better lighting.
But vegetable grower Neil Evans, who sells his produce from tables at the market centre, said he would have to move to an area which, although nearby, he said wasn’t as visible as his current location.
“It’s a very poor spot,” he said. “It will definitely affect my business.”
Mr Evans said he had offered to turn his tables around by 90 degrees to help accommodate a seating area while maintaining his presence on the main pathway between the market’s Whitewalls and Union Street entrances.
He normally sets up his stall three days a week but has been doing it on Fridays and Saturdays in recent months.
Mr Evans said traders in the market were backing his bid not to be moved, and that shoppers were also on his side.
He said he has sold fruit and veg at the market for 44 years, with 30 of those at his current spot.
“They (the council) should be looking after me,” he said.
Mr Evans’s tables are adjacent to Hugh Phillips Gower Butcher, whose boss Catherine Butler said the majority of traders were opposed to the seating area proposals.
She said the market did need investment, but felt new stalls were a better option for the central space than the council’s proposals which, in her view, would have the effect of blocking off some existing stalls.
She added: “We have moved several times to get a prime position.”
Cockle and laverbread stallholder Carol Watts said she was concerned that people using the seating area might bring in their own food, rather than buying it at the market.
She added: “Who’s going to clean and sanitise the seating area?”
Nick Jones, chairman Swansea Market Traders Federation, said he was in favour of investment and welcomed the council’s support for the market since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
But he felt the central area should contain new stalls for start-ups.
“That would generate footfall for the market,” said Mr Jones.
“No well-established businesses should be put under threat.”
He said he felt the seating area would attract “sad souls and vagrants”.
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said the market was the jewel in the city centre crown.
“Those buying drinks and food from nearby stalls will be able to use the area to relax whilst watching market life go by,” he said. “Those using the area will not be allowed to eat food brought in from outside the market.
“The area will be flexible enough to host a range of events, including speciality markets such as the popular vegan market, cookery demonstrations, exhibitions and displays.
“It will cause no obstruction or visibility issues for existing stalls – and will attract new customers. A new member of staff will keep the area clean and tidy.”
He said casual traders were being offered a new purpose-built area around 15 yards away from their current area where the tables are.
“It’ll be next to the high-profile cockle rotunda at the heart of the market – a place of high footfall in normal times,” he said.
“We want casual traders to be part of the market’s big future.”
Non-essential retail stalls are currently closed at the market, which has new toilets, in line with Welsh Government Covid regulations.
Cllr Francis-Davies said the authority had cancelled market rent payments of almost £370,000 during the first weeks of closure during the pandemic, and instigated rent subsidies worth tens of thousands of pounds to traders.
“Few, if any, councils have been as generous in their support of the local market at this difficult time,” he said.