Thursday, market day in Aldershot, is one of the few days when Aldershot is busy. Though busy is a relative term. Busy as opposed to dead, which is the norm on other days of the week.
Saturday is a day when most town centres are busy. Not Aldershot. Lion and Lamb Courtyard in Farnham has more people on a Saturday afternoon, than are seen on the street in Aldershot.
Market day is the only day worth going into Aldershot, and only then for the excellent fruit and vegetable stall at the bottom of the market.
A rare example of the local council making an intelligent decision, was when the market was relocated to the town centre from the ground floor of a multilevel car park just off the town centre. When the market was in the car park it was depressing, damp and cold, access was down a stairwell from the street that doubled as a public urinal. Relocating to the town centre, meant the market was out in the street, visible, not hidden away.
When Westgate opened last year, it hit the market hard. Yes, it has recovered, but not to the level it was before Westgate opened. Before, I used to find a queue at the fruit and vegetable stall, now I never find a queue, and often the market is deserted.
Now, as I learnt today from stallholders, the market is under threat. The first the stallholders knew of this was when they saw they were on the front page of the Aldershot News. [see Market may move from town centre]
Shopkeepers apparently are complaining, one said it brought people out onto the street in front of their shop!
Now it is difficult to comprehend why a shopkeeper should complain that there are people on the street. Would she rather there was no one on the street? And if they do not go into her shop, that says more about her shop.
Another, who is quoted as complaining of the competition, I have spoken to, and he says he has no problem with the market.
It is also claimed, Guildford only has a farmers market. Simply not true. Guildford has a popular farmers market once a month in the High Street on the first Tuesday of the month. It also has a very popular market in North Street on a Friday and Saturday.
Very shoddy reporting by the Aldershot News. It would appear they have spoken to a few whinging retailers, who are not representative.
A few more corrections to the what was reported in the Aldershot News.
The stallholders do not bring their vans in at 2pm and knock down their stalls. What stallholder is going to knock down their stall when there is business on the street? They bring their vans in at 4pm. Only rarely do they do so earlier, and that is when there is very bad weather and no one is on the street.
What of the problem of cars and vans, late afternoon every day? A pedestrian street should be just that, pedestrian.
Yes, there is obstruction. The obstruction is not the market. The obstruction is Costa with their tables and chairs outside, reducing the highway to a narrow gap where people are forced to walk in single file to get past, and to wait, if pedestrians are coming the other way. The council is well aware of this obstruction, and chooses to turn a blind eye.
It is difficult to comprehend a handful of retailers who are complaining of a market that is bringing people into Aldershot. Not only into Aldershot, but into the town centre.
It goes without saying, there has been no consultation with the stallholders (the first they knew there was perceived problem is when they saw it on the front page of the local rag). It goes without saying, no consultation with those who use the market (the first I knew was when the stallholders told me).
This would appear to be yet another example of the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor (as it is known locally) wishing to destroy small businesses.
What is destroying Aldershot is not its Thursday market, it is Westgate (or WasteGate as local retailers call it) and a dysfunctional local council that appears to be hell-bent on destroying not only Aldershot town centre but also Farnborough town centre.
The sick joke is that £1 million is being spent tarting up Farnborough town centre, £1 million poured down the drain. And the justification for this waste of public money? In order that markets may be held in the town centre!
Aldershot applied for Portas Pilot status. They failed, but it would have been money down the drain. Mary Portas stresses time and time again, diversity, local community, markets.