Public inquiry told fears over safety may have driven away female market traders amid changes to parking in Durham city

Safety fears may have driven away some female traders, following a change to parking allocations in Durham city, a market boss has claimed.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 1:16 pm
Durham City market square.

Market workers were previously able to park at the former coach park at the Sands, which Durham County Council has closed while construction is underway on its new £50 million riverside HQ.

But according to Colin Wilkes managing director at the city’s historic Market Hall, the loss of this provision has been concerning for workers.

“At the moment we have an arrangement with the Council, where we have 10 spaces allocated in Providence Row that are available for traders,” he said.

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“They are reserved for [market traders] and then they just pay the usual parking fee to park there, which is fine.

“It has worked out of necessity – it’s had to work.

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“We have lost quite a few of our female traders who drive the large vans, because they have concerns about walking back there, especially in the darker evenings, because they tend to carry their cash float with them – it’s that little bit further away and a little less well lit.”

Wilkes was speaking at the public inquiry on Wednesday, May 12 into the county council’s attempts to strip the former coach park site of its protected ‘common land’ status.

It is intended it will eventually become a car park for the new council offices currently under construction.

While he opposes the loss of the coach park, Wilkes, who was made an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours last year (2020) for services to independent businesses, admitted it was unlikely to be reinstated, even if the council’s application is successful.

However he is also supportive of the wider HQ plans, which he thinks will drive further footfall into the city centre.

The inquiry, which has heard refusal of the application could cost the county council more than £60,000, has spent five days hearing evidence, with two more scheduled to be held.

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