I attended the public meeting about Newbury Market last night at the Town Hall.
A Conservative councillor wrote-off the value of this meeting before it took place, saying it would be "stacked with the usual suspects".
I didn't notice any "usual suspects" at the meeting. There were a good number of residents who I have not noticed at public meetings before. They all expressed their views in a lively discussion. It was a great shame that West Berkshire Council declined the invitation to attend the meeting.
There has already been a survey of 1400 signatures, with 92% saying they wanted to see some market stalls remaining in Northbrook Street. Also, the Farmers' Market organisers had an independent survey conducted which showed overwhelming support for some market stalls to remain in Northbrook street. Another survey of the businesses based in and around Northbrook Street, found that 72% wanted the market to remain there, while 28% wanted it to go back to the Market Place. There has also been resounding feedback from the public to councillors through the Saturday surgery and elsewhere saying that they like the market in Northbrook street.
The Town Council proposal builds on this groundswell of local opinion. It proposes a two site solution - stalls both in Northbrook Street and the Market Place. This was unanimously supported at the public meeting. Five options for bus routes were discussed and all but four people supported option d) which is:
"Re-route the buses on circular routes that include drop-off points on Broadway outside MacDonalds for the north of the town and at Bartholomew Street (South)/Market Street junction and adjacent to Post Office for south of the town...this would allow Wharf Street to stay open, easing congestion on Parkway Bridge."
Option (e) got four hands in support and was:
"As (d) but allow buses to travel up Bartholomew Street (North), Mansion House Street and the Market Place, with drop off points much closer to the centre of the town. This would free Northbrook Street for market stalls and would be safer for buses in the Market Place due to a reduced number of stalls there. This would also allow Wharf Street to stay opne, easing congestion on Parkway Bridge."
It was emphasised that the Town Council proposal is not a solution to replace what is happening in a few days time, but for the longer term, for example from January 2007.