Derby's historic Market Hall is finally set to reopen to customers on Tuesday, July 7- more than three months after it was forced to close because of the coronavirus lockdown.
But there is expected to be with a one-way system in place and safety measures on the stalls to ensure the building is safe for traders and customers.
Since the Government announced the easing of lockdown, Derby City Council says it has been working to safely reopen the historic building – currently undergoing a multi-million-pound transformation – but it has not been plain sailing, according to the authority.
Many non-essential retailers were able to reopen their doors from Monday, June 15, this was not possible with the enclosed Market Hall.
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The Market Hall is currently undergoing a major £11 million transformation, with significant roof repairs, and further cost due to create a space offering an attractive, flexible retail and leisure destination.
Extensive scaffolding around the building has made it more difficult to work out social distancing in the 19th-century venue.
Rachel North, city council strategic director of communities and place, said: " The Government has been clear that retailers may only reopen if they are 'Covid-secure', and for some places this is practically difficult, as you need the space and resources to manage that.”(Image: Derbyshire Live)
“Facilitating the reopening of the Market Hall has been really challenging for a number of reasons.
“The transformation is of huge significance for the city, but work in the building has meant less physical space for us to work with due to scaffolding and works access, naturally making it more difficult to socially distance, and reopen safely.
“We’ve been working really hard on solutions, so we can reopen as quickly as possible for traders – I can see why people think it should just be a case of opening the doors and making people shop one way, but practically there is much more to consider and – though it’s difficult for traders – safety simply must remain our top priority.”
Council officers have been exploring a number of options to reopen the market, including resources to manage the number of customers, and flow of visitors to the market, while also looking at alternative solutions like moving onto the Market Place, which was deemed not possible.
A quick history of Derby Market Hall
The grade II listed Market Hall's foundation stone was laid in February 1864 and the building was officially opened to the public in 1866 by the then Mayor of Derby Thomas Roe.
The building cost £29,000 and was a project of Melbourne engineer Rowland Mason Ordish, whose other works include London landmarks such as the Albert Bridge and the dome at the Royal Albert Hall.
His detailed work on the single spanned roof at St Pancras Station, with William Barlow, bears a striking resemblance to the roof of Derby Market Hall.
The Market Hall underwent a multi-million pound transformation in 1989 and was re-opened later that year by Princess Margaret.
Ms North added: “Coronavirus has, as you’d expect, reduced the number of people we have at work, so we have redeployed staff to project manage the reopening of the Market Hall – this really is a priority for us, and having someone to focus on this has really helped and ultimately led to us being able to reopen on July 7.
“We’re now going to be working with the traders to help them with the risk assessments and preparations necessary to reopen.”
Traders have been written to today informing them of the update, and a meeting is planned next week to discuss the reopening.
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Councillor Mick Barker, lead cabinet member for markets, and president-elect of the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA), said: "Traders have understandably been extremely frustrated at the delay in reopening. I share their frustrations. This is their livelihood – many of these businesses have been passed down from generation to generation – the last thing I want to see is well respected and historic businesses penalised, or worse, fail.
“I’ve been pushing for the Market Hall to reopen like every other retailer, but I’ve been told it’s not possible for a number of reasons, so I’m pleased to see we finally have a solution to allow the Market Hall to reopen safely.”(Image: Derby Telegraph)
If final approval is given next Monday, the Market Hall will reopen on Tuesday, subject to sufficient COVID-19 safety measures being in place. A one-way system will be in operation, as well as specific safety measures at individual stalls.
Last month, one trader expressed concerns that some stalls would not reopen again in the Market Hall but a number of other traders responded by saying they were all looking forward to reopening when the time was right.
The reopening will be regularly reviewed, ensuring it remains feasible to keep the market open during lockdown.