Hopes high for new Sunday market

A PROPOSAL for a new Sunday market in Banbridge was set to go before Banbridge District Council last night (Monday), with developers hopeful that councillors would back their “unique” vision for revitalising the town centre.

If approved, the new market would operate the entire length of Newry Street once a month and comprise a mix of Continental Market-style speciality stalls alongside more traditional ‘Farmers’ market’ crafts and foodstuffs.

A spokesperson for Event Management and Crowd Safety Services (EMCSS) which is behind the venture, said it would revive the ancient monthly market which was hugely successful in Banbridge during the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

“This is unique and entirely a new concept in markets, with traders lined up along the central plaza, covering an area of some 290 metres,” he said. “It will provide a much-needed boost to footfall in the town centre and is set to be one of the biggest markets in the country.

“We are pleased with the encouragement we have already received from traders in Newry Street - both those who open on Sundays and those who don’t.”

Every proprietor of a business already established in the vicinity was canvassed about the proposal, he said, and the general feedback was “very good”.

A detailed proposal on ‘An Occasional Sunday Market’ was sent to the council several weeks ago and was due to be discussed last night. Before Christmas, a council spokesperson told the Leader that the decision whether or not to extend the market provision in Banbridge to include Sundays, would rest ultimately with the council.

Currently, Friday and Saturday markets operate in Rathfriland Street as part of historical ‘market rights’ gifted to the council from the 1800s. Under this arrangement, the council has the authority to run markets on land in the public domain and has chosen to do this through the tendering process.

The spokesperson for EMCSS said he understood a market operated in Newry Street in the 1800s and existing ‘market rights’ still applied to the street for “12 monthly markets and three fair days annually”. The street would be closed to traffic.

He added that Sunday was considered the most appropriate day because of reduced traffic flow through the town, school closures and the lifting of parking restrictions.

“Sunday trading already exists in the area and the market would operate during the same opening hours from 1pm to 6pm to tie in with this,” he added.

The proposed Sunday market would be piloted in Banbridge and then rolled out in three other towns in a bid to breathe new life into Northern Ireland’s ‘dying’ high streets.