Taking the market out of Market Street

The end of a tradition in St Andrews.
The end of a tradition in St Andrews.

Centuries of tradition in St Andrews will come to an end this year when stalls in the town’s Market Street are re-located to Logies Lane and Church Square.

The move - for health and safety reasons - was agreed last week by Fife Council’s north-east area committee after a spirited debate.

David Brown, the lead professional in roads network management in Fife, told the committee that though the market had operated for hundreds of years.

He said: “Over time things have changed, particularly traffice volumes, causing safety concerns for stallholders as well as customers.”

He told councillors that retaining the market in Market Street as it is was not possible because of health and safety concerns. A second option for the future of the market stalls involved banning vehicles around the site presented an administrative nightmare.

The planned location is already a pedestrian area and will have space for five stalls.

But the health and safety argument prompted Councillor David MacDiarmid (Howe of Fife and Tay Coast) to describe the plan as “health and safety gone mad.

“The market has been there for hundreds of years and cars have not. I suppose we talked like this when horses and carts came along Market Street.

“I can see where the worries are,” Councillor McDiarmid continued, “but if you go to market streets anywhere you can see people wandering about in front of cars.

“There are ways of slowing traffic down, making people aware there is a market there.”

East Neuk and Largoward Councillor Donald Macgregor noted that there had never been a recorded accident and argued: “We have to consider first of all why it is called Market Street - because it was a medieval market.

“I think the best place for these stalls is Market Street.”

Fellow East Neuk Councillor Elizabeth Riches supported him - with the benefit of experience informing her.

She said: ‘‘I was a street trader there for many years. The traders support retention of the stances in their current location and they are the experienced people who know what works best.”

However, Councillor Andy Heer, from Howe of Fife and Tayside, supported the move: “I have always thought that having stances in the middle of the street was an accident waiting to happen and I think this will provide a better ambience for stallholders and their customers.”

Committee chair, St Andrews Councillor Frances Melville, explained that local councillors had already been in discussions on the future of the market stalls: “We supported that trade should continue and it was only after a lot of discussion that we devised this scheme.”

Cupar Councillor Bryan Poole also supported the move, although he regretted it: “It seems to me that there is a tradition of having stalls which we are taking away. If there is a risk, though, I am happy to support the recommendations - if there is no risk I am happy to support the tradition.”

He believed that councillors had been presented with a fait accompli because of the insurance implications of retaining the Market Street sit and formally moved acceptance of the proposals.

Councillor McDiarmid opposed him reiterating: “It’s health and safety gone crazy.”

The plan was approved by nine votes to three.