Supporters still hopeful as market plan put on hold

PLANS for a large-scale Sunday market in Banbridge have been stymied by the local council - but those behind the venture are hopeful it will yet go ahead.

Speaking after last week’s meeting of Banbridge District Council when the market proposal was discussed - but not approved - a spokesperson for Event Management and Crowd Safety Services (EMCSS), the group behind the project, said he remained optimistic.

“I am not disappointed at present because an earlier vote against the market, taken by the Environmental Services committee before Christmas, was not ratified by the full council which is still considering the proposal,” he said. “Last week some councillors said they had not been given enough information, so I also took the opportunity to present each councillor with a copy of the detailed proposal document.”

A vote on the proposal was turned down by the committee - seven votes to five - before Christmas, but the matter has now been referred back to the committee stage again for further consideration.

At last Monday’s meeting, some councillors voiced concerns over the legality of an open-air market in Newry Street in relation to ancient ‘market rights’ gifted to the council in the 1800s and the exact position is now being investigated by a legal expert.

The EMCSS developers believe Newry Street falls under these historical ‘market rights’, with the proposal document, ‘An Occasional Sunday Market’, referring to a successful market operating in Newry Street during the 1800s. The EMCSS group believes these ‘market rights’ still exist for “12 monthly markets and three fair days annually”.

Councillor Sheila McQuaid said the legal position needed to be confirmed, but she believed the market would be a “profitable way of bringing more footfall into Banbridge”.

“I think this specialised market, which would run once a month, would bring a lot of colour and variety to the town, with all different types of crafts and speciality foodstuffs on display,” she said. “It would also bring entrepreneurs into the district and let them ‘test the water’ if they were ever to consider establishing a permanent business in the area.”

But not everyone was happy with the idea and, following the meeting, Councillor Jim McElroy told the Leader he would be voting against the market due to his religious convictions in that it would be operating on a Sunday - “a day God commanded to be kept Holy”.

“Apart from that, I know that many of the traders currently in Newry Street don’t want it on their doorsteps,” he added. “It would bring down the tone of Banbridge which is a quality town.”

The matter is expected to come back before the full council in February when a final vote will be taken on whether to approve the market or not.