Drastic anti-terrorism measures are to be put in place in Stratford this autumn, in a move which will have big implications for the Sunday Market and traders in the town.
The changes are designed to protect people from the kind of hostile vehicle attacks, which have led to large casualties in recent years.
New bollards will be installed on the paved area at Waterside in September, while a one-way traffic system on Sheep Street and Chapel Lane will be put in place.
However, the bollards will seriously impact on the Waterside Sunday Market, and despite consultations with the operator LSD Promotions, no solution has been found.
As a result the district council are planning to move the Sunday Market to Bridge Street for a three-month trial period.
Linda McGillicuddy, director at market operator, LSD Promotions, said: “LSD Promotions has been proud to deliver the highly successful Upmarket along Waterside, which is thronged with visitors every Sunday, and whilst we were very happy to continue in this effective location, we are ever mindful that an international town like Stratford-upon-Avon, is a go to destination for millions of visitors each year and must take every precaution to guard against terrorism, installing whatever measures are necessary to keep one of the UK’s most popular and vibrant towns as safe as humanly possible.
“The measures that are being put in place along Waterside mean that it can no longer accommodate the Upmarket and after discussions with the District Council, we all agreed that in keeping with the contract, the only alternative location would be to move the market to Bridge Street, which we will be doing for a trial period, starting in October.
“As Bridge Street is already a highly popular market location and very central to the main shops and businesses, we are delighted and looking forward to the trial move which should be a very positive, successful, and safe outcome for all concerned.”
The decision to relocate the market has drawn a mixed reaction from businesses, with the town seemingly divided over the impact it will have.
There are currently no details about whether the taxi ranks will be relocated from Bridge Street on a Sunday during the market.
On Bridge Street, Levie Joson-Carter, manager at the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, said: “I think this will definitely be negative for us, a lot of our customers are elderly and need to be dropped off or picked up outside, how will they be able to do that now? When this road is closed for other events it totally kills us. I appreciate that we need to keep the town safe, but moving the market here is definitely not good for us.”
Aaron Thomas, manager at L’Occitane, said: “Generally I think it will be a positive thing having the market here, we have a good trade during the Christmas Market events, it’s only the Mop that affects our business really.”
Taxi driver Mark Gough said: “It’s hard enough as it is for us, especially with Uber creeping around, we’re not consulted on these plans, they’re just enforced on us it used to be a bit of carrot and stick, but now it seems we just get the stick, we just don’t receive any respect and this is our livelihoods.
“When Bridge Street is closed for events like the motor show, the traffic around the town is just mayhem, events like that should be on the Rec. Putting the market here on a Sunday morning will have a knock-on effect on Guild Street and Birmingham Road.”
Elaine McDermott, manager of Holland and Barratt, added: “I think having the market here will put people off coming through the door, it happens when the Christmas Market is on. I’m not thrilled about this idea and having stalls on Bridge Street with the noise and the fumes coming it isn’t something I’m looking forward to. I’m not against the market, but I just don’t think it should be moved here.”
Over on Bridge Street there also seems to be mixed views on the market leaving.
David Evans, of The Old Barn, said: “I think it’s a shame that we’ll lose the passing trade from the market, I think there are too many changes taking place in Stratford.”
Howard Clegg, owner of the Stratford Gallery on Sheep Street, said: “I understand why the bollards are being put up, the RSC is a huge draw so I can see why it would pose a target to terrorists. However when you change the traffic flow it adds an extra level of complication which is just liable to put people off coming to Sheep Street. I’m happy that the market is moving, it doesn’t bring any benefits to us, they don’t pay the high rates and rents we do and it doesn’t bring in the right people.”
Rachael Barber, owner of the Four Teas on Sheep Street, said: “Well it’s going to mean I’ve got a much longer route in to drop off things, but I’m glad the market is moving, it just kills our trade because people go there to eat the cheaper food instead of coming here.”
Although the council says the vehicle mitigation experiment will only go on for a limited period as part of a consultation exercise, there are suspicions that once in place, they will be here for good.
Stratford has already seen some security measures put in place with temporary barriers installed at special events such as the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations and the Christmas Lights Switch On.
Security concerns also prompted the council to ban vehicles from using Henley Street at all times of the day, a measure scheduled to last 16 months, though it remains to be seen if they are likely to stay for good.
Jo Baconnet, director of Stratforward BID, said: “This is all about public safety, the threat level has been at severe for some time, even though there is no specific threat. We are looking to speak to businesses as soon as possible about these changes. These measures will be brought in for a trial period because we need to see how they will work in practice and what implications they will have. As part of this we have been pushing very hard for a section at least of two-way traffic on Sheep Street, because if it was completely one-way it would make it not usable.
“Overall when we have markets on Bridge Street I think businesses are mainly fine with them and it’s potentially beneficial because it brings the market more into the centre of the town’s retail area.”
Cllr Tony Jefferson, leader of Stratford District Council added: “This is all about security measures to keep the RSC safe and it all has a knock-on impact. It is a three month trial and Stratforward will be consulting with businesses during that time to get their views. In reality the security threat is not going away and something needs to happen.”