Castle Street shops say markets chase customers

Castle Street stalls have upset local businessmen Graeme Gillespie, Neal Davies and Sandro Del Greco. Picture: Toby Williams

Castle Street stalls have upset local businessmen Graeme Gillespie, Neal Davies and Sandro Del Greco. Picture: Toby Williams

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TRADERS have hit out at the growing number of markets being held on Castle Street – claiming they are driving their customers away.

Fed-up traders claim in the last three months alone there have been nearly 50 markets on the street selling everything from dried fruit to craft goods.

But stores say they are losing up to £2000 a week as customers give them a wide berth on market days.

Store owners also claim rubbish left by the markets is making the street “unsightly”.

Sandro Del Greco, owner of Castle Street business Castello Coffee, said: “Many of us have got outside seating areas and to sit and have a coffee and look at dirty old tents is not particularly attractive.

“Castle Street is one of the prettiest streets in Edinburgh with a good view and then the markets come and ruin it for everybody. Some of the markets that come are 50 to 60 per cent food, so it takes a lot of business off of us. I pay through the nose for my little shoebox of a shop compared to the markets.”

Fellow trader Neal Davies estimated he lost about £2000 a week whenever markets were running on Castle Street.

He said: “The council’s not necessarily giving priority to the existing businesses on the street, the ones that pay the rates. These nomad-style markets are coming in and they filter people down the centre of the street away from the businesses on the side. They leave an absolute mess behind.”
Businesses along Castle Street are demanding action from the council and business improvement group Essential Edinburgh over the number of markets being allowed – especially given market stall holders are charged just £279 for a six-week pitch slot under the council’s fee system. And – with some 14 markets rubber-stamped to take place on the street this year – it is clear why a number of meetings have already taken place between disgruntled traders and council wardens. Essential Edinburgh intends to step in after receiving a flood of 
complaints linked to the city centre site.

Chief executive Andy Neal said: “We previously ran the markets in Castle Street, but there are issues with the wind there that in our view caused problems with certain market structures and that is why we pulled out.

“However, what has happened since then is that we have seen unfettered markets of varying size, shape and quality in Castle Street, and we have been asked by the businesses in the area to take control again and bring some order.

“We hope to do that next year, and will be applying for an annual market traders licence to do so.”

The Market Square Group and Fife-based firm Continental Markets are two of the groups behind the collection of stalls running at Castle Street over the summer.

Organisers have defended their behaviour, with Market Square Group managing director Paul Kennedy saying the company was working with the council to reach a consensus. He said: “On the subject of waste disposal, we do take this very seriously. We hire Euro Bins from a contractor, which are emptied daily.

“The problem seems to be caused by general litter from shops and residents who dispose of their waste and are all too happy to blame us.”

The row is expected to come to a head today when the thorny issue is tackled at council’s licence sub-committee meeting. Licensing sub-committee convener Councillor Gavin Barrie said “careful consideration” will be given to the concerns.

Sight for store eyes

TEMPORARY markets have become a regular sight around the streets of central Edinburgh.

Stalls are a key feature of the annual Christmas festival, with German-style markets traditionally littering Princes Street Gardens from late November until early January.

Pop-up markets are also regularly run on Cathedral Lane at the top of Broughton Street, next to the John Lewis department store.

A trial to run Sunday markets outside of the Royal Commonwealth Pool for six months was also given the nod earlier this year.

OPERATOR HAS SYMPATHY

ONE of the market operators at the heart of the Castle Street furore says the stalls generally help stimulate trade and entice visitors to the area.

Ali Yaich, owner of Fife-based Continental Markets, said he feared being squeezed out if new restrictions were brought in for operators and policed by Essential Edinburgh.

“We tried to get in before and they blocked us,” he said. “I never had that when applying for a licence through the council. I do feel sorry for the businesses if they have any concerns about us.”