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Grahamstown Market

The icon word is certainly overworked these days, but in the context of the Grahamstown Markets, it is probably not inappropriate. Certainly this unique institution must not be put at risk – it is far too important for the citizens of this town and its environs, not to say its visitors.

The previous operators – Peter and Diane McKinnon established an atmosphere of co-operation, and mutual respect that enhanced the operation of the market from its inception some 16 years ago. They also made sure that the market area was swept and cleaned after each market – a critical aspect of its operation. Dissatisfaction is starting to emerge amongst stall-holders who are apparently unhappy with the attitude of the new operators, and complaints have been made to Council seeking intervention to ensure that rules regarding the manner in which the market is required to operate are enforced.

Unlike the previous situation, the current operators have taken over the entire block from Cochrane to Pahau Streets claiming that this is all ‘public property’ on which they are entitled to charge fees on a Saturday morning. Further, the pedestrian space has been reduced through the allocation of stall space on both sides of the footpath – the consolidated by-law is quite specific as to the percentage of footpath required to be preserved for walking, and shopkeepers elsewhere in the town have been pulled up in this regard. The advent of mobility scooters of which Thames people are amongst the highest users per capita in the country, makes this even more important.

All this activity appears to be aimed at maximising fee revenue at the expense of the rights of shop owners and pedestrians, not to mention market customers. A recent attempt to rent the space in front of the funeral home – a 24/7 operation where grieving relatives should not be required to run a stall gauntlet exemplified this new attitude - and this was not an isolated case. The new operators run a substantial risk of the current fairly ‘loose’, or even non-existent rules being tightened by the Community Board under the Consolidated By-law.

There is certainly no desire to otherwise restrict the operation of the market, or to diminish the ambiance that is so important to its overall success, but continuation is dependent on goodwill and respect from both sides. 




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Reader Comments (1)

I've noticed that people who come to Council to gain a lease or license are often back later to get more approval for extensions and improvements. The reason is apparently that they have created a business using public land and wish to on-sell for their own profit. Another effect is in their wish to expand they start to produce their own rules and appropriate adjacent public ground. Maybe you can think of an area near you that has been "improved".

October 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter H Wood

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