BY far the main concern for traders surrounding Earlestown's huge regeneration plans has been the prospect of vehicle restrictions on the market.

With Earlestown market given its charter more than 700 years ago, it is a huge part of the town's history and has attracted customers from far and wide over the centuries.

Like many other traditional markets, however, trade has declined in Earlestown and St Helens Council has submitted £28m plans to address this; aiming to revamp the market square, refurbish the town hall, and make improvements to the town's railway station.

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Traders raise concerns

St Helens Star: Bob Isherwood, whose family has operated on Earlestown market for 100 yearsBob Isherwood, whose family has operated on Earlestown market for 100 years (Image: St Helens Star)
Although the multi-million-pound plans could be a lifeline for traders and business owners in Earlestown, several traders aired their reservations about some aspects of the proposals.

By far the most common concern was the proposals to introduce vehicle restrictions after the market square has been refurbished, with an all-weather canopy set to provide space for up to 60 traders.

At present, every trader has their vehicle next to their stall so they can quickly unload their products, re-stock if necessary, and quickly pack up at the end of the day. 

Some traders also work inside their vans as they keep stock refrigerated, and many are troubled about the potential of parking off-site as this would mean many trips to their stalls and leaving stock unattended.

There are further concerns about the proposals to move public toilet facilities off-site, the potential of rising market rates, and the potentially obstructive period when the canopy is being constructed.

Restrictions to address market's 'lack of structure'

St Helens Star: Almost all the traders park their vehicles on the market squareAlmost all the traders park their vehicles on the market square (Image: St Helens Star)
With St Helens Council's £28m plans for Earlestown submitted for approval last month, they explain that access to the market square will be controlled through vehicle restraints, street trees and planters, and fixed and removable bollards.

The council believes that there is currently a "lack of structure" at the market and vehicle restrictions will allow the square to "feel and operate as a secure and flexible space".

A spokesperson explained that the council is "committed to making sure traders can easily park in the vicinity of the market" and a parking survey is currently taking place to "assess the existing facilities across the town centre".

Solutions could be found with designated areas for stall-holder parking alongside facilities for disabled persons, the council believe.

Council explains vehicle plans and restrictions

St Helens Star: The £28m plans aim to transform Earlestown town centreThe £28m plans aim to transform Earlestown town centre (Image: St Helens Council)
In response to questions from the Star, a spokesperson for St Helens Council and ECF, said: “Our proposals will provide a better environment for traders and shoppers, helping to support and grow Earlestown’s historic market long into the future and encouraging more people to spend time in the town centre through the ability to host events all year round.

“There is currently a lack of structure to how traders access and park in the square, which does not help to create a safe and inviting space.

“The square will benefit from controlled vehicle access at its four corners, including secure bollards with ample loading space for market traders.

"We are committed to making sure traders can easily park in the vicinity of the market and we continue to consider a range of options for this, providing further updates as options progress.

"This could include designated areas for stall-holder parking and servicing alongside facilities for disabled persons, to create a safer and more vibrant Market Square.

“The Market Square’s current use for indiscriminate public parking on non-market days does not create a welcoming environment and is not sustainable.

“A comprehensive, parking survey is taking place as part of the planning process to assess the suitability of existing facilities across the town centre and inform the development of a parking strategy to ensure Earlestown has an appropriate and fit-for purpose operational parking estate. Stakeholders will be engaged to help inform this parking strategy.

“The council reviews fees and charges each year for all services, including its markets, with updates to the council’s webpages on an annual basis, and we'll continue to do so.”