A market trader whose fruit and vegetable stall has been in the family for generations is to close.
Chris Ball’s stall in Chorley’s covered market has been in the family for more than 70 years. But following a gradual slump in business, compounded by the disruption of the Market Walk development, he will be ditching his fruit for a flower stall.
Meanwhile bosses at Chorley Council say that the town is open for shoppers ahead of the festive rush. The authority has opened up even more car parking bays than the 235 spaces which had been lost in development work.
Stall holder Chris said: “People have said they have had brighter days since some of the car parking spaces were reopened but I haven’t noticed anything.
“They have opened the Flat Iron a bit but most people have to carry their shopping to Friday Street and if you are disabled or elderly they won’t do it.
“People are no longer prepared to carry their fruit and veg a long way whereas flowers are only light. The fruit and veg stall was the mainstay of the business. We used to sell a wagon load everyday – that’s 10 tonne a day. But over the last four or five years it’s gone down and we’re not even selling a quarter of that now.”
Chris said that the down turn in trade since the Market Walk development has compounded the issue. “The turmoil that has been in the car park on the Flat Iron has decimated trade,” he said. “It’s not the same as it used to be because customers can’t park their cars.”
Leader of Chorley Council councillor Alistair Bradley says that the council is pulling out all the stops to make Chorley Christmassy, provide as many parking spaces as possible and to make town an enjoyable place to shop. He said: “We know the last few weeks in particular have been a struggle for traders and the temporary closure of the footpath in front of Iceland and the lane closure on the by-pass and Union Street coupled with the disruption to parking were a big factor in that.
“All that work is complete and we have paused the development which has allowed us to re-open more spaces on the Flat Iron, which means we now have more parking spaces than we did prior to any work starting so Chorley is well and truly open for business.
“Feedback I’ve received is that trade has picked up and some are reporting having a very good week this week.
“With regards to Chris’s fruit and veg stall this is something our officers have met with him about several times over the last few years and we’ve advised him to focus solely on the flower stall because we understand he has been struggling with the fruit and veg side for some time, it’s not just related to the recent disruption.
“Our offer to any of the other traders is that if you are struggling come and talk to us.”
Commenting broadly on the disruption over the town's Market Walk development Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “Over the weekend I spent time speaking to traders on the market and I think that we’re getting towards an outcome that will suit everyone. We know that the Council has now replaced all of the spaces that were lost as well, and has as put in park-and-ride to help increase capacity.
“We want Chorley to be a success story this Christmas but that means everyone working together to ensure we’re not undermining the town at this vital trading period.”