DEFIANT market traders in South Shields have vowed to stay put while demolition work goes on around them.
The stallholders have hit out before work starts on Monday to flatten the Wouldhave House office complex in South Shields Market Place, fearing they will be dispatched to other parts of the town once the 14-week demolition work starts.
They’re determined to stay and “fight their corner” after claiming the very future of the historic market is at stake.
Northumberland-based Owen Pugh Contracts is expected to have demolition workers on site next week, and a section of the market place will be cordoned off for the duration of the work.
Stallholder Robbie Ridley said he was determined to “fight for the right to work” during the demolition process.
He said: “It is the market traders who are going to suffer through all this, not Owen Pugh. The council is not giving us the support we need or keeping us in the picture.
“From what I’m told, the market place is to be cut in half, with Owen Pugh putting all its machinery on the half closest to Wouldhave House.
“We would resist any attempt to close off the whole of the market. We want to continue to trade here, not anywhere else.”
The traders are to meet council representatives at Ocean Road Community Centre on Friday but with demolition contractors due on site little more than 48 hours later, traders say it doesn’t give them enough time to prepare.
Lynn Lucas, a member of the market committee, said: “I can’t see why they can’t do as they did in Newcastle city centre when they imploded a building from within.
“Moving stalls into King Street would not be welcomed. If we move, it could mark the end of the market. We need to stand our ground.”
The demolition of Wouldhave House will pave the way for a new central library and community hub. It forms an essential part of South Shields 365 – a £100m vision to transform the town centre.
Coun Michael Clare, the council’s lead member for regeneration and economy, said: “The market will continue to operate throughout the demolition works, and while it is inevitable there will be some disruption to traders, we will do everything we can to keep this to a minimum.
“We are committed to keeping market traders informed and involved throughout the redevelopment of the market place, and contacted them in November to provide details of the forthcoming demolition programme. We are meeting with representatives of the contractor this week to identify the precise location of the demolition site’s boundary fence, which will run through part of the market place for safety reasons.
“Council officers will meet with market traders to advise them of the outcome of these discussions and consider the relocation of the traders affected.”
“We appreciate that there will be some temporary inconvenience but would appeal to market traders to bear with us.”