Image description: shoppers inside the covered market, by the Garden shop
After a delay due to the pandemic, the city council has announced plans this week to regenerate and improve the Covered Market. The council’s ‘masterplan’ will consider improving entrances, enabling events, and improving public facilities.
Work based on the plan would be set to start in 2022, depending on the go-ahead being given. This is alongside the £3.1 million that is already being spent to support the covered market, including securing the roof. There are already plans in place to run events and open a bar in the market later this year.
The grade II buildings in central Oxford, first opened in 1774, are home to over fifty traders. Most of these are independent businesses, such as the Garden, Bonner’s greengrocers, and the Oxford Soap Shop. Many of these, such as Alpha Bar, Sasi’s Thai and Georgina’s are key student lunch hotspots, right in the centre of Oxford.
Councillor Mary Clarkson, the Cabinet Member for City Centre, Covered Market and Culture, attested that the past year had been “extremely difficult for the covered market traders” but assured that the council remained committed to the market’s long-term success. She said: We are the custodian of a market that has been in continuous use since the late 18th century; we take that responsibility seriously, and we see it as our duty to secure the market for future generations.” As the “jewel in the crown” of Oxford retail, the council hope that this will allow the market to exit the pandemic with “a solid and deliverable plan” that would also create new jobs.
Further to this, the council are hoping to create a new leasing strategy, which would hope to secure the market as a home for independent businesses. After consultation with tenants, they will present the document in April. One member of the university told the Oxford Student: “The covered market is a little unexpected gem right in the middle of the city” and that it was good to have such an easy way to support local businesses in Oxford. “It’s so exciting that it’s going to be regenerated, and it’s lovely to think that students and the residents of Oxford will get to enjoy it for a long time to come”.
Due to the current lockdown restrictions, whilst the covered market remains open, individual traders have varied as to whether they can continue to open, and what opening hours they can offer. According to their website, 19 of the shops are currently closed, with others only open online or for deliveries.
Image credit: tejvan photos via creative commons