LEGAL advice is being sought following Banbridge District Council’s second rejection of a proposal for what has been billed as one of the biggest outdoor Sunday markets in Northern Ireland.
The full council rejected the bid from Event Management and Crowd Safety Services (EMCSS) at the February meeting after the Environmental Services Committee turned down the proposal by five votes to four.
Voicing his “bitter disappointment” with the decision, a spokesperson for EMCSS confirmed that legal advice was now being sought in relation to the matter.
“We have been led a merry dance for eight months now and I am bitterly disappointed with the outcome,” said the spokesperson. “However, we are now investigating three or four procedural avenues for a legal challenge.”
And he added, “People in Banbridge have as much right to shop in the town on a Sunday as councillors have to object to it.”
In addition to Sunday trading objections, the spokesperson also suggested the council had been loathe to press ahead due to “confusion” over the road closure required along Newry Street to enable the project to go ahead.
“My understanding is that Banbridge Council has been closing roads without acquiring the necessary Road Closure Order from the Roads Service,” he said. “Having said that, we haven’t really been given a clear reason why the market was rejected - it wasn’t discussed at the full council meeting and from earlier questions put forward it was clear that some councillors hadn’t even read the proposal document.”
He also claimed “accusations were thrown” that he had canvassed businesses in Newry Street which open on Sunday ‘and ignored those that don’t.’
“This is not true,” the spokeperson added, “and at the end of the meeting I presented a list to prove that all the businesses had been surveyed regarding their stance and the overwhelming view was supportive.”
A vote on the proposal for “An occasional Sunday Market” - set to operate 12 times a year - was first turned down before Christmas, and, following the January meeting of the council, was referred back to committee stage for further consideration.
Despite the council’s final decision, the developers maintain that Newry Street falls under the remit of historical ‘market rights’ conferred upon the council dating back to the 1800s - but those market rights have never been used.
The specialised market was to run once a month, selling different types of crafts and speciality foodstuffs along the lines of the Continental Market in Belfast and supporters believe it would bring much-need footfall to the town centre.