Mark Lancaster MP receives 10,00 signatures in support of MK Market and Secklow Gate.
It’s probably the biggest petition in MK’s history. In just 5 days, over 10,000 people from all walks of life have signed a grassroots petition to keep the Market in Market Square and stop retailers building over the main highway through Central Milton Keynes.
MP Mark Lancaster visited the market on 1 Feb to talk with traders and collect the petition before meeting with David Hill, Chief Executive of MK Council. He later tweeted “10,000 strong petition supporting market traders delivered to MKC. A strong vibrant market is a must for CMK”
Two weeks earlier, Mr Lancaster had met over 100 traders to listen to their fears that the market would be finished if forced to move from its prime location of more than 30 years beneath Secklow Gate Bridge.
Since the Portas Review, the government has promoted investment in markets to encourage independent retailers. Despite this, the centre:mk has put forward plans to move MK Market to a 40% smaller site with no room for the lively cafes and permanent shops that are so popular with local people, ethnic minorities and visitors to Milton Keynes.
After sending field workers to investigate, the National Market Traders Federation, representing some 300,000 traders, wrote to MK Council warning that MK market could “wither and die” if the plans go ahead. Approximately 450 jobs are at risk.
MP Mark Lancaster assured the gathering he was “committed to a long-term, viable market in Milton Keynes” and would take up their concerns with MK Council. He said he was concerned with the current lack of strategic vision and added “I’m concerned that a whole series of bit-piece applications are coming in that are not in the broad plan or long-term interests of Milton Keynes.”
After a cold day on the market, traders pack into meeting with local MP.
Later, Gary Eaton, who runs The Phone Doctor stall, said “We’re very pleased to have Mr Lancaster’s support. After all the market is the last bastion of small, independent retailers and makes CMK different from every other shopping centre. We think there’s loads of potential, but first we have to win this David and Goliath battle. Our livelihoods are at stake and we won’t know if we have a future or not until the night of the Development Control Committee, on 21 February. The uncertainty is bad for business and awful for our families too.”
Labour Parliamentary candidates Emily Darlington and Andrew Pakes have also come out in support of the Market and of CMK’s unique network of grid roads, which would both suffer from the loss of Secklow Gate Bridge.
Market Square was built into the design of the new town of Milton Keynes. First came the grid, which guaranteed superb access for traffic and pedestrians, then came the 1 km-long shopping centre, which was designed around the grid road network with Secklow Gate flying straight through the middle.
many shops in MK Market are friendly, family busineses
Many of the first settlers in MK came from London’s East End, and knowing the importance of street markets the architects created a sunny square around Secklow Gate where people could enjoy the market and get together.
From small beginnings, MK Market is now home to around 250 stalls, including 150 permanent shops. The variety is exceptional, with everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to African, Asian and Indian speciality foods, stationery, tools, pet food, luggage, cafes, dress-making, hairdressing, picture-framing, and mobile phone and watch repairs.
However there is only room for 6 out of 10 stalls at the proposed site, which is not only far too small to house the existing market, but would also be plagued by a major loss of visibility, unsafe pedestrian access, loss of weather-protection and loss of disabled parking.
“There’s no doubt about it. The market succeeds because of where it is,” says Gary Eaton, who has run a business in Market Square over 12 years. “We don’t see why the centre:mk should be allowed to ruin our livelihoods and get rid of a thriving, multi-cultural hub when they could easily afford to build Primark over the road on already vacant land.”
Traders are delighted by the overhwelming public support for keeping the heart of CMK intact. “Historically, markets that have been moved have not survived and we are not going to let this happen in Milton Keynes,” said Mr Eaton.