With space for 300 traders, the new ‘Greatie’ would be at the heart of a vibrant new Great Homer Street. It was this scheme that was passed by the Government, and that still sits in the Council’s planning offices (and online at developer, St Mowden’s suitably impressive fly-by video).
It was the right thing to do, on many counts. The traders have steadfastly stayed loyal to their community, and they’ve provided – against successive councils’ dithering – a real, vibrant market offer (admittedly down on its heel these days, thanks to Geraud). With the closure of Broadway, and Tuebrook sold to Tesco, Greatie is the last market standing outside of the sorry spectacle of St Johns.
“It’s clear that the renaissance that the city centre has enjoyed is now filtering out to the rest of the city,” said Mayor Anderson at the time. “The £150m Project Jennifer scheme will transform a 45-acre site in North Liverpool.”
Well yes, it will. But with the current U-turn on the project’s promises for a new dawn for the market, it might well transform things in the wrong direction.
Announcing the new location, Councillor Kennedy was – perhaps unsurprisingly – met with complaints and indignation from traders who felt betrayed, their views misrepresented (or simply ignored) and their future prospects anything but secure.
The decision – to turf out the 180 year old market, in favour of a car park for chains like Costa Coffees, Wilcos and Boots – was taken without any consultation with the traders. Without any consideration that, with a huge new supermarket at one end of the development, the possibility of the relocated market benefitting from increased footfall at the other would be virtually non-existent.
Stall holders on the ‘west side’ – indoor stalls trading only on Saturday – were asked whether they’d move to Dryden Street. ‘What’s the alternative?’ they asked. ‘There isn’t one,’ Cllr Kennedy informed them.
“The traders said that if they were given the option to stay in the heart of the regeneration, or move to Dryden Street’, they’d chose Great Homer Street,” says outdoor (‘east side’) market traders’ representative, Billy Darwin.
Councillor Kennedy’s reasoned response?
“Well, when I was 12, my Dad told me that we had to move house, and I had no say in the matter, and I didn’t like that either.”
Faced with this fait accompli they agreed – and are scheduled to move in May. But it’s the full-time ‘east-side’ traders who are, unanimously, against the move. They, more than anyone, realise the gravity of the situation – and a petition has been handed to Cllr Kennedy, to be joined by a 500-strong-and-growing petition by local shopkeepers at today’s meeting between Council and traders.
“All we want is what we have always been promised,” Darwin tells SevenStreets, “and that’s to be at the heart of the new development. Our customers helping Sainsbury’s, and theirs supporting us. With 300 stalls trading every Saturday in the heart of the project, continuing to attract thousands of shoppers from across the region, rather than be shifted to a fenced off enclosure ten minutes’ walks away.
“We’ve always supported Project Jennifer, but the proposed shift beyond the boundaries of the new Great Homer Street development will cause great harm to our businesses, and seriously threaten one of Liverpool’s great traditions,” he says.
Now, if they don’t move site in May – Cllr Kennedy warns them that they’ll be ‘trading illegally’ on their current site, despite the fact that building work isn’t set to start here until next year.
Markets and street trading in the city is, in our opinion, at an all time low. In the past five years, we’ve turned the city around. We’re in the top five retail destinations, thanks to Liverpool ONE, and our visitor economy is booming. But, while other cities are realising the potential of their markets, ours have never looked more fragile.
When Joe Anderson, and Cllr Kennedy talk about their commitment to the independent traders, small businesses and the cultural champions that make our city the special place it is, remember Great Homer Street market. That two-centuries old retail success story, sold for the price of a car park and a Costa.
We’ve done ‘regeneration at any cost’ before – the city still has the scars. We need to encourage investment, but never at the cost of those who’ve kept this city functioning through the dark days. SevenStreets believes that Project Jennifer is a good thing – as do the market traders. With a vibrant market at its heart it will give the community what it needs, what it’s promised, and what North Liverpool deserves.
Want to have your say?
If you, like us, think that under Geraud, and Councillor Kennedy’s, stewardship, Liverpool’s market’s have suffered from under investment and a lack of vision, please let them know. You can say what you like, or you can cut and paste this simple letter, and CC us too please (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dear Councillor Kennedy –
I/We do not believe that it is right for the Council to go back on the promise it made to the market traders of Great Homer Street, and force them to relocate away from the heart of Project Jennifer. I support Liverpool’s independent traders, and believe a thriving market can boost the city’s economy when it needs it more than ever. Furthermore, I believe Great Homer Street’s market traders have earned the right to be at the centre of a regenerated Great Homer Street community, and any move away from that would seriously threaten their livelihood and the market’s future. I ask you to reconsider the proposal to relocate the market to the farthest reaches of the Project Jennifer scheme, away from its core retail offer.
Councillor Kennedy’s email is: email@example.com