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'Piazza' plans will kill off Barking Market, company bosses claim

PUBLISHED: 16:00 01 March 2012

Campaign: Traders fear they will lose their jobs if the

Campaign: Traders fear they will lose their jobs if the "Covent Garden-type piazza" is built

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Traders rally support as stalls are threatened with closure

Market traders are campaigning to save their jobs amid fears a new public space could wipe out dozens of stalls in Barking Town Centre.

Barking Market sellers are worried a proposed development in the centre – dubbed a “Covent Garden-style piazza” – could divide their shopping street in half and lead to the loss of up to 100 pitches.

Market manager Frank Nash, 52, warned that the 12th century market in East Street could fall from 160 to just 60 stalls, while one shopper said the plans could turn Barking into a “ghost town”.

But Barking and Dagenham Council insists a new development would be integrated into the town centre, with the scheme building on the success of the town square.

Traders are now banding together to garner public support and force the council to formulate new plans that will save their jobs.

Imtiaz Chaudhry, 38, of Hulse Avenue, Barking, said: “Please help us save our market.

“We want everyone to know what is happening. My life will be finished. I have a home and two kids. I’m here four days a week.”

Mr Nash told the Post: “This is a real watershed in the history of the market. This area will die off. It’s a mad scheme.”

Town planners, who say they are consulting with all interested parties, are working on a scheme to create a public space.

Mr Nash described it as “a Covent Garden-type piazza with restaurants, wine bars and coffee shops”, though this was unconfirmed by the council.

Around 15 traders would be forced to clear their 25 pitches by the end of March, he told the Post.

Works to complete the paved square and a nearby skills centre it will link with, known as the Technical Skills Academy, could take up to a year, he added.

Market management firm Charfleets fears that shoppers streaming out of Barking Station to go to the market will not bother to go beyond any new market square that may be built.

The firm warned that the bottom half of East Street, including nearly 80 pitches, will eventually die off.

Mr Nash said: “The centre of the market is effectively a department store. These traders are going to lose their livelihoods. In effect, it’s going to destroy the market.”

Retired teacher Jackie Roche, 64, of Ilchester Road, Dagenham, said: “There are enough coffee shops. We need the market. If they carry on it will be a ghost town. This is a vibrant, multi-cultural community. This is what we need.”

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