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The future of our markets



I remember, at the age of seven, being taken to the Petticoat Lane Street Market in East London and I think I have been a fan of the marketplace ever since.

Before we moved back to Kent Suzy and I lived in Fulham and shopped regularly in the North End Road where barrows laden with a variety of the exotic sit cheek-by-jowl with others peddling tat and they, in turn, vie for business with the more traditional shops that line the road. They co-exist and, mostly, prosper.

When we travel to France on holiday the weekly market becomes a must to haggle and buy produce, meet friends, drink coffee or something stronger and exchange the gossip of the region.  This is no idle tourist attraction; this is the very stuff of local life and to miss it is to be out-of-touch.

We have some of this in Kent and I believe that we could and should have more.

There is a real debate over the future of our markets, and rightly so.  Should the Herne Bay site, for example, remain in the car park? Or would it thrive and complement the town's other retail outlets better if relocated to one of the main shopping streets then closed to traffic?  With farmers` markets proving successful and the obvious attraction of French and Italian market stalls is there any reason why our own weekly (and why only weekly?)  market should not combine all of these assets to revitalise and reinvent itself?

These are valuable assets. Properly presented and promoted they can and should bring business into our towns. But they need security of tenure, they need signposting and they need advertising.  Marginalised, sidelined and neglected they will decline and disappear. The choice is ours. Do we want to lose yet another piece of our heritage or are we prepared to back it?

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