Traders switch locations after dangerous concrete found in market hall ceiling
Chris Lewis Local Democracy Reporter
Traders at a busy market have begun to open up shops in different locations after dangerous concrete was found in the market hall roof.
The temporary closure of Bridgend Market came after the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, or RAAC, within the structure’s roof in September.
It led to the building being closed with immediate effect to protect public safety, after an emergency meeting of cabinet members was called following the discovery by inspectors, with further assessments needed before it can re-open.
The move left the 17 stallholders in the market with just hours to pack up their stock and leave, with no guarantees on what the future would hold for their businesses.
While there are still no updates about when the market will re-open in what has been described as a “complex” situation, some traders have begun to open shops in other locations around Bridgend, as they welcome shoppers over the Christmas period.
However, with traders moving on, it has led some to question if the market will ever re-open in the same way as it once was.
Eileen Schofield had been based at the market since 2006 on her stall that sells kitchen and craft supplies.
After recently re-opening at the former Officers Club in the Rhiw Shopping Centre alongside eight other stalls, she said she was just happy to be back in business.
She said: “We’re quite pleased with where the council have set us up and they’ve done a good job on making the stalls nice, clean and bright looking, so I think most of us here are quite pleased.
“I don’t know if we’ll end up going back to the old place as we’re quite happy here to be honest, and with the amount of time it’s taken us to take everything out of the old market and put it in this new unit, it has been a bit of a nightmare.
“It’s going to be a long, drawn out time and the trouble is some of the stallholders have gone out into shop units and probably will not want to go back in there – so if there’s less people wanting to go back in, I don’t know what the council are going to do.”
Chris Pritchard, 40, runs an American coffee shop stall at the new location and said after a turbulent few months, he also has doubts if they will go back to the market.
He said: “I was in the market for about 15 months before we moved out. It was an absolute nightmare because we knew nothing about it before it happened.
“The safety inspector rocked up at 2pm on the Wednesday, and said there was bad news that we we’re shutting down, so we literally had an hour to pack up our stuff and get out.
“Essentially I’ve been unemployed for nine weeks so it’s been hard just trying to keep going. Luckily, we’ve had pop-ups in the Rhiw every Friday and Saturday so it’s managed to keep going a little bit, but it has been stressful.
“I think they’ve done really well in here though. It looks nice, it’s all brand new, it’s fresh and looks full as well so I think they’ve done a good job.
“My personal opinion is that too many people have now left the market, for example the butchers and sewers have all gone off and got their own shops in town, so the chances of them returning after having those shops is slim to none.”
Anne Binding is the owner of Bridgend Bakestones and said after opening her own shop on Market Street over the last month, she is hopeful her business will continue to thrive, with new freedoms to open outside of market hours.
She said: “It was important for us to open up before Christmas as we couldn’t afford to miss any more time, and I knew I wanted to stay here in Bridgend.
“I’ve been here for around 14 years now and am well established, so I came out and found the new place for myself.”
Speaking at a monthly full council meeting, Bridgend Council’s leader Huw David said: “Stallholders from Bridgend indoor market have started moving into their new temporary accommodation at the Rhiw Shopping Centre in time for the Christmas shopping season.
“Some traders have opted to source their own alternative town centre premises and some are open for business once more.”
He added: “Reaching this point has not been easy or straightforward as we have stated previously it involved resolving some complex issues whilst staying within the parameters of what we are legally permitted to do using public money.”
Councillor Rhys Goode, who is the cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, added: “What’s really important for me is to say to everyone in the borough, if you can, get yourself down there to help support them because they’ve obviously lost a good few weeks of trade unfortunately, and it’s really pleasing to see them back open.”
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