Alternative locations, a new Wednesday date and reducing fees will be part of an action plan to revive the fortunes of Colchester’s ailing High Street market.

Town centre bosses have admitted action needs to be taken to prevent an “ongoing deterioration”.

Colchester market’s roots go back to Roman times when the High Street was the central street.

It has now been in Colchester High Street on a Friday and Saturday for three years after being relocated (controversially) from Culver Street West.

But still, the market is struggling. It was revealed April to June this year saw the number of stall holders taking up pitches fall to a record low.

On Fridays, it was 55 per cent and on Saturdays just 40 per cent. The council aims to see 65 per cent of pitches taken up.

Colchester Council now plans to make a number of changes to how the market is run.

It will encourage traders to bring their own stalls rather than use the council’s “tired and tatty” ones which are coming to the end of their life.

The move would save the council £10,000 on buying new stalls.

Prices of pitches will also be reduced from £29 to £25, but the council would need seven new stallholders to make it financially viable.

How Colchester Council's market fees stack up

The report said: “If we are no longer providing stalls it would be justifiable to reduce pitch rental fees accordingly.

“This could result in greater occupancy rates which would mitigate any reduction in overall income levels.”

A new Wednesday market could be introduced and different locations trialled for Saturdays.

The report added: “Many traders have reported that they would prefer to rent pitches in the High Street on a Wednesday rather than a Saturday.

“This is when the High Street enjoys good footfall from the sixth form college, Colchester Institute and office-workers.

“It is proposed to consult businesses and the public on operating a Wednesday market in the High Street.

“It is proposed to trial additional locations for market stalls around Colchester on a Saturday to identify if they could provide an additional more popular alternative to High Street location on Saturdays.”


  • The market in 1984 in High Street

Council bosses said “less natural footfall” via the market on Saturdays was hurting traders.

Nick Chilvers, a former retail manager, previously said the former Co-op should house the town’s market.

The former Co-op building, which part of the St Nicholas Square development, is planned to be turned into five restaurants and two shops.

Mr Chilvers admitted finding an ideal location for the market was tricky, but believes the Co-op building should still be on the table.

“I’d like to know if the council has contacted the Co-op about the feasibility of it,” he said.

“If a market doesn’t work for the traders they won’t come. It will only work for them if it works for the public.

“I’m not surprised at the low occupancy. Colchester has never been a strong market town, it is not like Bury St Edmunds which has a great square.”

Mr Chilvers said he had sympathy for the council but said traders and customers must come first.

He said: “Don’t keep chopping and changing. If it gets broken up it is going to fall apart. Customers want stability and want to know where they are going to find it. The council have had a lot of stick and I think that is unfair. They have tried to put on a show.”

Colchester Council: 'Markets need to evolve to thrive'

A spokesman for Colchester Borough Council said: “High street traders continue to face unprecedented pressures from online shopping, changing customer tastes and tighter household budgets, and Colchester Market is no exception.

“Following extensive consultation with market traders, who support the new arrangements – particularly the proposals for extra weekday trading and alternative locations on Saturdays – we hope to redress some of the low-occupancy levels seen in recent months.

“Markets need to evolve to thrive. We want the market to be an asset to Colchester but, to ensure its continued viability and success, it needs to operate more flexibly and be able to compete with other, often more lucrative, specialist events at the weekends which attract traders.

“These changes aim to enhance the market’s competitiveness and increase the range and number of events throughout the year, such as the St Botolph's Priory Open Day Event on Saturday 21st September.”