DEALERS in South London have cautiously welcomed Southwark Council’s proposal to relaunch Bermondsey Market, but remain sceptical as to whether funds will be made available to make a significant difference.
They are also anxious that the originality of the historic
market is preserved.
Antiques traders have faced a difficult five years as the market
has been moved around during the redevelopment of Bermondsey
Square, which was completed earlier this year.
Now the council have undertaken a consultation process with
market traders with the aim of producing an action plan to
"reinvigorate and transform" the markets in the London borough.
The council's draft strategy document says that the Friday
antiques market is in decline with large numbers of empty stalls.
It points out that the market "needs a significant rebrand and
relaunch if it is to remain a significant tourist attraction".
The findings do not tally entirely with what the traders have to
For instance, the council believe that only 40 to 50 stalls are
currently let, with another 120 pitches available, whereas
Bermondsey Antiques Market Traders' Association chairman Joan
Bygrave reports 70 to 80 stallholders at the last count.
The council report also states that the stalls themselves are
"in poor condition and present a detrimental image for the
Despite this, Joan Bygrave believes that the situation is now
better than is being portrayed. She said business was improving now
that the Bermondsey Square redevelopment was finished.
"The area is becoming more lively and I know the market will
survive and improve," she said. "I have the utmost admiration for
all the dealers who have struggled through the most difficult
trading conditions during the five-year Bermondsey development.
They have fought, and will fight, tooth and nail for the market to
which they are dedicated, as am I."
Both she and the council agreed that publicity and signage
needed improving, but she added that the council's track record at
promoting the market was poor.
Traders' confidence in the council has been an issue over the
years when it comes to acting in the interests of the market. This
is an issue that the council are well aware of and they say they
have gone out of their way to try to build bridges.
"We understand that there is support and affection for the
markets and that's why we want to keep them going and improve
them," said a council spokesman.
"We know that the regeneration has affected trade at Bermondsey
and some dealers have expressed disapproval, but we need to balance
this with the needs of people who live there."
She also pointed out that in the last 12 months the council had
spent £1m on street lighting, road improvements and tidying up the
market areas in the borough.
However, some dealers at Bermondsey doubted whether the council
would make funds available for a significant rebranding.
Joan Bygrave said: "The dealers are also very anxious that the
market does not lose its originality and we would not wish it to
become a 'shrubs and tubs' place like Covent Garden."
There were also questions raised as to who would implement the
measures once they were decided.
Since 2007, the market has been managed by Geraud Markets (UK)
Ltd, the UK arm of Groupe Geraud, an Anglo-French company, who are
the largest operators of local authority markets in Europe and have
a number of local authority contracts in this country.
According to Matt Steele, who combines jobs as the operations
manager for Geraud UK and trading manager for Southwark Council,
the agreement between Southwark Council and Geraud is a "loose,
informal arrangement", unlike Geraud's structured legal
relationship with Liverpool City Council for example.
Mr Steele said: "We manage all of Southwark's markets, whether
there's one trader or 250, and we have a contract with the council
until July 2010.
"As far as Bermondsey Antiques Market is concerned, new
investment is certainly needed in stalls and promotion, and the
signage is certainly very poor. There are many issues yet to be
resolved by the council, all of them involving the presentation of
With regard to the relationship with Geraud, the council
spokesman said: "This is not a privatisation of the markets, as
some have claimed, but we use the services of Geraud as they have
great experience and expertise in this area.
"We will look to put out to tender the management of the action
plan once it is released."
It is envisaged that the action plan will be made public early
By Alex Capon and Joan Porter