VIDEO: What do you think of newly relaunched Leighton Buzzard market?

Leighton Buzzard Market was relaunched on Saturday as a planned demonstration against the changes was called off on Thursday.

The relaunch saw street entertainment and cookery demonstrations held, as the public turned out to see the new look.

Stalls at Leighton Buzzard market on Saturday. Photo: Jane Russell

Stalls at Leighton Buzzard market on Saturday. Photo: Jane Russell

A spokesman for Leighton-Linslade Town Council said: “The town council would wish to thank the public who in their hundreds came out to celebrate the relaunch of the market.

“Our further thanks goes to the loyal traders who embraced change and were prepared to work with the town council in delivering the relaunch.

“Over the coming months, we will be monitoring the market and where considered necessary, will be making changes in order to improve the market experience for market traders and visitors alike.

“We hope that the market relaunch was a positive experience sufficient to encourage those who do not normally frequent the market to do so on a more regular basis.”

The mayor takes in a cookery demonstration. Photo: Jane Russell

The mayor takes in a cookery demonstration. Photo: Jane Russell

Instead of the protest, market supporters held a public consultation at the Market Cross seeking views on the changes to the market.

A petition of 559 signatures against rent increases and 165 survey responses were gathered, showing support for a mixture of stalls and gazebos and mixed feelings about the changes so far.

Preliminary analysis of about half of the surveys show overwhelming support for a mixture of stalls and gazebos, with people split on the attractiveness and the new layout as regards how easy it was to get around and how accessible it was for disabled people, plus many didn’t like the smaller stalls.

Roy Walker, of South Beds Friends of the Earth , said: “It is great that the town council are listening to the views of local people and the traders and will be negotiating on rents and layout.

Street entertainment. Photo: Jane Russell

Street entertainment. Photo: Jane Russell

“Our survey is designed to help the town council and to work with them.The survey showed very mixed views about the new layout and the gazebos with majority in favour of a mixture of stalls and gazebos and against reduction in stall sizes.

“The survey also showed that the vast majority come specifically to the market for fruit and veg, plants and flowers, bread, fish, cheese as well as clothing , cards etc. If these larger stalls have to reduce their size and range of products or, due to rent increases, have to leave, there is a real risk that we could lose these customers which would harm the whole market.”

In a newsletter to traders last week, the council stated: “During the coming months we want to hear your opinion on market rent and encourage your views on the way we reward loyalty and long service to the market.”

Last month the LBO reported how the profit of Leighton Buzzard’s market continues to plummet for the third year running with a net loss of over £22,000.

Campaigners collected petition signatures, and asked the public to fill in a survey about the changes. Photo: Jane Russell

Campaigners collected petition signatures, and asked the public to fill in a survey about the changes. Photo: Jane Russell

The town council, who say the current layout looks loose, untidy and with no critical mass, commissioned agents The Retail Group to carry out an analysis of the market. Their report stated it was “underwhelming” and led to the controversial relaunch plan.

The campaigners are angered by rent increases of up to £6,200 per year traders claim they are facing as the council begins to charge for depth and not just stall frontage.

A number of stall holders have claimed they won’t be able to stay in business after the council decided to standardise pitch sizes and fees, introduce a new layout, and clamp down on businesses who have historically expanded their pitch size – but not paid for the privilege.

While the council says this will make matters fairer for all and increases will be staggered, long-standing traders have said they had negotiated their own price many years ago – and the resultant hike will be too great to absorb.

What did you think of the relaunched market? Email news@lbobserver.co.uk