Death of a market

street market mid-September packed ... today deserted

street market mid-September packed … today deserted

Westgate is indeed a comprehensive scheme that will be a fantastic asset for Aldershot and its residents. … all round it is great news and I’m delighted to see it opening. — Peter Moyle, council leader Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

It’s just a fantastic addition to the town and will be a huge boost to residents. … Westgate will serve as an excellent conduit to the town centre itself. — Andrew Lloyd, chief executive Rotten Borough of Rushmoor

Aldershot has a very popular Thursday street market. Or maybe I should say had, past tense.

Today, it was all but deserted.

I walked from Upper Union Street down into Union Street where the market runs down the street to Costa on the corner, then around the corner to The Arcade.

As I walked down Union Street, I met a column of people heading the other way. It was like a column of ants. They were heading away from the market, towards Westgate and Morrisons.

Usually on a Thursday, market day, the street is packed, the only day Aldershot is busy, as the market is one of the few reasons to visit Aldershot. Today, though more people than an average weekday, it was all but deserted. Usually, there are people sat outside Costa, causing an obstruction, today no one.

I walked to the fruit and vegetable stall at the bottom end of the market. A very popular stall, usually very busy. Today a lack of customers.

I asked had it been like it all day? The lady serving said yes. Trying to put on a brave face, she put it down to half-term. She was wrong, school half-term there is always more people on the street.

I buy fruit and vegetables off stalls like this. It is of better quality, fresher and usually cheaper than days old fruit and vegetables in a supermarket. But, having been in Morrisons, and seen they were the exception, fresh produce (how long they will keep it up a moot point), I feared that it would hit stalls like this hard, and I was seeing my worst fears realised. A once busy stall, its customers down to almost zero.

I expressed this to the lady. She nodded, and said others had told her the same, very good quality in Morrisons.

I talked to a few stallholders. They were shell-shocked, they had never seen a day like it. Some wondered what was going on, others blamed Westgate.

One stall holder said he had run a stall in Aldershot for eight years and never seen a day like it. He said he would give it a few weeks, but if he had days like this, he would be pulling out of Aldershot and he expected the market to die as other stall holders would do the same.

I suggested he and other stallholders demanded a drastic reduction in rent. It was after all the council who had caused the loss of business.

I do not usually get to the market until mid to late afternoon, often catching the market as it is closing. Today I was early, late lunchtime early afternoon. The market would at that time of day be very busy, it was not, it was almost deserted. That I was earlier, market almost deserted, only served to emphasise how dire was the situation.

It is easy to see why local newspapers have falling sales. On the street was an intrepid hack from the Aldershot News with a photographer in tow. I assumed they were there to see the impact of Westgate on the town, but no, they would not know a story if it was staring them in the face, they were there to ask folk dumb questions, apparently they do this every week.

I even asked, were they there to cover the impact on the town? I pointed at the fruit and vegetable stall, pointed out that was an excellent photo opportunity, a normally busy stall with no customers, around which they could hang a story.

But they were not interested. Why were they not interested? Apart from the the fact they would not recognise a news story if they fell over it, could it be the advertising revenue Westgate is generating? Last week they had a puff piece on Westgate masquerading as news, how great it was for the town, uncritical regurgitation of what the local council tells them. If you cannot trust a local rag to do good, old fashioned reporting, then why buy it?

What motivates a local council to destroy its own town centre?

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One Response to “Death of a market”

  1. keithpp Says:

    Letter in Liverpool Echo is excellent analysis of the situation. Totnes fought to preserve their identity, but then look at Liverpool. Could equally say look at Aldershot or many other towns that have been destroyed

    The independent trader will soon be a thing of the past unless people stand up and fight (as they did in Totnes).

    But it is not only developers we have to fight, we also have to fight and root out the endemic corruption in local councils that is allowing this to happen, councillors and official too often in the pocket of developers and pushing their unwanted schemes (more often than not dressed up as regeneration).

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