Bury council has ordered the immediate closure of the Indoor Market at Murray Road, Bury, Lancashire, affecting 49 traders.
Bury council instigated a structural survey which highlighted the existence of RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete), used in the construction of the building in 1971.
Bury Council announcement
Bury Market has 200 units overall. The Indoor Market, which was closed on October 26, houses 62 units, 16 now re-opened on the exterior of the hall.
I visited Bury Market on November 4, 2023, and interviewed several market traders.
Tim Brierley sells footwear from one of the outdoor units and said: “I’m 70% down on trade, it’s Saturday mid-afternoon on a Saturday, it should be really busy and just you guys.”
He has no idea when the Indoor Market will re-open, Tim added: “The council said something like Christmas.”
Tim’s shop has a shutter door to the Indoor Market Hall, where much of his trade came from, closed till further notice.
Tim can reopen because he has a separate – safe – outside roof according to Bury Council. This also applies to all the other outdoor shops.
The Fish and Meat Halls and the outdoor market are unaffected and open as usual.
For over 500 years, Bury Market has been present in the retail sector in the area.
Bury Council is working closely with all the affected market traders to get them trading as soon as possible, within a 5-minute walk of the Indoor Market Hall, in the Market Square and Mill Gate Shopping Centre.
Some stalls are trading at alternative accommodation as pop-ups in the Market Square.
The council has arranged a financial package of support including rent, service charge and business rates freeze for affected traders according to Tony Hill, chairman of the Market Traders and proprietor at the Carpet and Rug centre.
He said: “Bury Council have put together a relocation package. There will be no rent wherever they go to for three months, there will be no rates, then they will review it again.”
David Catterall is the head of Bury Council’s Commercial Service, directly responsible for ensuring the traders from the Indoor Market Hall are up and running in temporary locations as soon as possible.
David’s plan is to temporarily locate them within a five-minute walk of their original site, if possible.
I chatted with several traders, they understood the council’s dilemma, when the Indoor Market Hall closed suddenly with no notice, an instant shock to both parties.
I caught up with David on November 10, 2023, in the Market Square, he confirmed RAAC found in the Indoor Market Hall, which deemed unsafe, David said: “We had to take all the traders out for their own safety and relocate them.”
David verified 18 businesses are trading, up from 16, in a temporary location within the outdoor market, the top end of the Golden Mile, or in the Millbank.
Because of the uncertainty of the reopening of the Indoor Market Hall the council are in the process of securing vacant units within the Millbank.
There is talk among the traders of temporary structures under construction, David said: “Yes there are various entrances to the Indoor Market Hall we have reconfigured them and built false walls to enable traders to open up and customers to access from the front rather through the Indoor Market Hall traditionally, it’s a safer way to get to the stall and allows them to operate again”
Highlighted to David, Tim Brierley’s trading dilemma, reporting he had lost up to 70% trade due to the closure, David said: “Immediately they had all the rents frozen,” also traders who pay business rates and electricity rates are frozen for traders moving into the Millgate.
David added: “We are offering a further four months free rent and business rates, and support around mental health, one to one session to help them through what is a very difficult time.”
The tragedy happened leading up to the Christmas the busiest time of the year, David said: “We were conscious of that, we had to make that decision to keep everyone safe.”
David further explained there was never going to be a good time, he added: “Christmas trade is what gets them through January and February.”
I asked why the outside shops connected to the Indoor Market Hall allowed to open, David said. “We were able to get building control to confirm roofs were made of reinforced concrete and not RAAC.”
The structural surveyors appointed by Bury Council are Pick Everard, specialists in RAAC.
David advised: “Bury Building Control within the council are experienced in building surveys and so on, but we wanted to make sure we were surveying the building with the best possible resource.”
Bury Council wanted a positive guarantee it was RAAC, they had carried out an initial assessment with the council Building Control department to suggest it was RAAC, Pick Everard are conducting further assessments.
David said: “The whole building survey will tell us longer term what the plan to remedy is, so we can do something in one month, one year, two years, or five years.”
RAAC is a major issue for Bury Council, the Indoor Market Hall traders, and the local people.
Not only is this a major issue for Bury, the RAAC problem is evolving all over the UK, affecting mainly schools and hospitals and an unknown quantity of structures built with a flat roof from the 1950’s onwards.
I contacted David Catterall on December 13, 2023, for the latest news on the Indoor Market Hall.
“Surveys of the structure of the Indoor Market Hall are ongoing and should be finalised and completed by January- February 2024, said David.”
David is frustrated he cannot give an indication of a timeline to all concerned, until he receives the survey report the council team cannot formulate a viable plan.
David added: “There are two options under consideration, a false roof, which would be built beneath the original roof our preferred option, or a scaffolding support structure.”
The false roof would act as a safety net and catch any falling debris and create an open visually pleasing space to work and shop in. Whereas the scaffolding option would create a sea of support poles not pleasing to the eye, according to David.
David confirmed: “Of the affected stall holders 37 out of 49 of the Indoor Market Hall traders are up and running within the open market, the remainder to be trading by January 2024.”
If a survey reveals RAAC in schools or hospitals, or any public building and there is a possibility of danger to life, the affected building will close immediately.
A ticking time bomb weaving its way through the United Kingdom.