Stallholders at the historic Barnet Market have welcomed a major refurbishment as “a fresh start”.

The new owners of the St Albans Road site, the William Pears Group, has spent thousands of pounds renovating the dilapidated former cattle market since they took over earlier this year.

The market, which can be traced back more than 600 years, reopened for the first time this week after a month-long closure.

Customers on Saturday were greeted with new stalls, fresh Tarmac and new railings, which give the market what one stallholder described as “a badly-needed lighter and brighter feel”.

Andy Gardiner, who has run his fruit and vegetable stall for 25 years, said: “This has always been a community market and we’ve always been supported by the community, but we want it to become the hub it once was.

“It’s a teething process but with the changes that have been brought in, there is a chance of that.”

As well as investing several thousands of pounds on the refurbishment work, William Pears has appointed Saunders Markets, which runs eight other markets across the country, to manage the site.

Gary Saunders, owner of the company, said: “It is going to take some time to get going and we’ve said to stallholders to wait four to six weeks before making a judgement.

“But there has been a lot of interest and good will, so hopefully, with the money from William Pears and our expertise, we can get it up and running again.”

Stallholders had long decried the slow decline of the market, which for the past ten years was forced to set up behind large boards and on rough and uneven flooring.

Scott Oakley, who drives from Devon twice a week to run his farm shop stall, believes the alterations have been very positive.

He said: “It’s a total change. People couldn’t even see us before behind the boards and to say this is 100 times better is an understatement.”

Rita Hammersley has run a fish stall with her husband for the past 39 years and believes the new surface provides a boost for some of the less mobile customers.

She said: “The tarmac makes a big difference for the older legs. It’s great this is being built back up again but we have to say our customers have been fantastic over the years.”

Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers and members of the Friends of Barnet Market (FoBM) visited the refurbished site on Saturday to take a look themselves.

The Conservative politician said: “In speaking to some of the stall holders, the enthusiasm for the improvements was clear and I thank the William Pears Group and FoBM for their hard work and persistence. WPG have been a breath of fresh air as the market’s new owners, achieving real progress after years of disappointment.

“FoBM and I have been campaigning for these improvements for several years as part of our efforts to secure the future of this historic market. We will continue to support the market and hope to see it go from strength to strength.”