Boris Johnson announced last night that outdoor markets can reopen from next Monday, 1 June. By then, Ludlow Market will have been closed for ten weeks. He has put in place a countdown for the market reopening. It must reopen. The market is at the heart of our town centre. Ludlow is not Ludlow without its market. It will not thrive without a thriving market.
There must be no further delays in the market reopening. The countdown to reopening outdoor markets has begun. Ludlow Market must reopen next week if our town is to bounce back beyond coronavirus.
In the last few weeks, two different plans for reopening Ludlow Market have been put forward by traders who are champing at the bit to get back to serving their customers in one of the finest market squares in England. But the reaction from the town council has been cool. I have witnessed the tension building up between the traders that have served our town so well for so long and the managers of the market. One trader spoke to me last night saying: “Ludlow Town Council has a week to sort out the market.” I agree.
Ludlow Market was shut peremptorily on at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. Many indoor markets along with a few outdoor markets continued. Tesco and Aldi have been allowed to trade but shopping in the great outdoors was out of bounds.
I have never agreed with this policy. Trading outdoors is only a question of management, just like Tesco and Aldi.
Last night the government announced that outdoor markets could reopen next week:
“Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. As with garden centres, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces.”
Management of outdoor markets for some time must involve social distancing.
I have seen two plans prepared by traders for reopening Ludlow Market as a socially distanced market. Both have been sent to the town council. After Boris Johnson’s statement, traders’ pleas for trading to restart cannot be ignored. If town councillors disagree with these social distanced proposals, they have until Monday 1 June to come up with alternatives. It’s time and I can’t imagine that being a problem as the town council has had two months to prepare contingency plans for reopening.
A social distanced market in Ludlow will be a new phenomenon. Our market will be different from before. Fewer traders. Longer waits. But we have the space and patience to do this Ludlow.
One trader has suggested that the reopened market might be just two days a week initially. Friday and Saturday. I think that lacks ambition. If we are not ambitious, we will not thrive after Covid-19.
If demand is from traders and customers is high, the council should consider running the market on Tuesday as well, the only day it is usually closed at this time of the year. That might mean that we have a wider range of markets. Different flavours. Sometimes food. Sometimes pets and gardens. Sometimes non-essential but enjoyable goods. That is not that different from before the lockdown but each day might have a more distinctive branding.