'Tough' times as Dolphin Square market set to close

PUBLISHED: 09:18 20 September 2012 | UPDATED: 09:22 20 September 2012

Sarah and Alan Bytheway and Gina Simpson and Pat Bliss

Sarah and Alan Bytheway and Gina Simpson and Pat Bliss

Archant

TOMORROW (Fri) signals the end of an era for Weston when, after more than four decades, Dolphin Square's indoor market will be locked up for the final time.

The closure has been on the cards ever since McLaren Life revealed plans for its £45million regeneration in October 2010. But that does not make it any easier for the last remaining stallholders as they move out their stock.

Any initial hope that an indoor market would be incorporated in the new shopping precinct soon disappeared – despite a 2008 North Somerset Council directive that any planning application ‘should consider the retention or upgrading of the indoor market’.

But although the writing has been on the wall for some time, tomorrow promises to be a tough day for those traders who stuck there until the last.

Pam Bytheway, along with her husband Alan and daughter Sarah, have been mainstays at the market for 24 years and she told the Mercury it would be a difficult day.

She said: “Moving out after all these years is no picnic emotionally or physically, particularly as those who have already gone have nowhere to move to.”

Those include café owner Gina Simpson and her mother Pat Bliss, who ran a lingerie stall at the market for its entire 43-year history.

And Pam said their exit earlier this month had left regular customers frustrated.

She said: “Pat now has to face the rest of her days without the daily meeting of friends and customers.

“We have had to manage in a half empty building where the rest of us are still having to pay rent without ever receiving an offer of alternative premises or a penny in compensation.

“The much-loved café was a community in itself where the disabled and the lonely found it a haven with easy access, and the holidaymakers could eat and browse the stalls out of the rain.

“The loss was summed up when a man in a motorised wheelchair swung by and looked at the empty space.

“The look on his face when he realised there would be no more morning breakfast was the saddest picture.”

In March a special report by the Mercury revealed traders were ‘absolutely terrified’ by their uncertain future.

Knowing they had to be out by the end of September, desperate attempts were being made to secure new premises for Weston’s market.

Months of negotiations means that tomorrow will both be the end of one market, but the beginning of another.

Many of the traders will start moving to premises in nearby St James Street and the remaining clothing stallholders will move into the adjacent Aniqa store.

The Market Place is currently undergoing its final refurbishment and the stallholders hope to announce an official opening date soon. But it will soon be the new home for popular stalls selling hardware, toys, CDs, DVDs, sweets, leathers and a whole lot more.

Pam said: “Once our customers find us I am sure they will enjoy the new space which will have a cosier feel and the same warm welcome.

“The few traders left from the old market and the shops will live to fight another day, despite the shoddy treatment and lack of support for Weston’s independent trading families.

“It is the end of an era for Dolphin Square but a new era begins in St James Street.”

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