Stall holders concerned about UBS plans to sell Barnet Market and The Spires

Times Series: Fruit and veg stall owner Steve Dickinson's family has had a presence at the market for more than 30 years Fruit and veg stall owner Steve Dickinson's family has had a presence at the market for more than 30 years

Stall holders at a historic market say they are worried about its future after the owners announced plans to sell the site.

Banking firm UBS yesterday confirmed it was selling The Spires shopping centre, in High Barnet, and the St Albans Road site of Barnet Market.

The sale has raised questions over the future of the market, which has existed since taking over from a long-standing cattle market in the late 1950s.

In October, UBS announced plans for a major redevelopment of the site, including new tarmac to replace the rough gravel that stall holders say is putting off customers.

But new owners are unlikely to be tied to the plans, throwing the future of the market, which opens on Wednesdays and Saturdays, into question.

Fruit and veg stall owner Steve Dickinson, whose family has had a presence at the market for more than 30 years said: “The worry is that we just don’t know what the potential new owners have planned.

“It does bother us – we all feel insecure. When you don’t know what is happening, you tend to think the worst.

“We would like very much for the renovation to be done as soon as possible. This site has been an eyesore for the past five years and it needs smartening up.”

UBS will finish taking bids for the estate next week and a spokesman said the firm is seeking in excess of £35.5million.

Stall holders say the market has declined from a peak of about 50 stalls to closer to 10 today. They believe the renovation would bring it back to life.

David Bone’s family were the first to open a stall at the new market in 1957 and he continues to run a fruit and veg stall today.

He claims he and other stall holders are becoming increasingly concerned and frustrated with a lack of information from the current owners.

He said: “We’re used to the fact they don’t tell us anything. They treat us like mushrooms and keep us in the dark.

“We don’t know from one week to the next what we’re doing. Of course we’re worried – it is our livelihood.

“You can’t expect people with pushchairs and prams to come on to this surface. It is a vicious circle – if fewer people come, there will be fewer stalls. We were the first ones in and I’m worried we could be the last ones out.”

Final bids for the site will be made in the coming days, after which UBS will begin a selection process that could take several months.

John O’Keefe, who has been coming to the market since it first opened, said: “A lot of people would be very upset if it were to close. These sort of places need to be kept open or else Barnet will lose a bit of its character.”

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