ALMOST 1,000 people have signed a petition by traders calling for an open-air market to be reopened.

More than 80 small business owners have called for answers from Newcastle City Council about why the Quayside Sunday market is shut.

The market was closed in March at the start of the coronavirus lockdown and briefly reopened in summer with safety measures in place.

But when tighter restrictions were introduced across swathes of the North-East last month the council again halted the market.

Fashion retailer Poppy Solari, who started the petition, said the decision to close the market is unjustified and is crippling traders.

She said: “We need the Quayside market to be reopened.

“Local lockdown restrictions in the North East allow for people to travel to get essential goods, there are no Government or local restrictions or guidance that say it should be shut.

“We were more than coronavirus secure when it was reopened, with half the number of stalls all spread out, a one-way system and hand sanitiser stations.

“Not being able to trade is crippling self-employed traders who need to be out on stalls to make their wages.

“The longer it is needlessly shut the harder it is to survive and the longer it takes to reopen the harder it will be to keep the customer base we have built up over the years.”

The Northern Echo:

A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said the decision to close the Quayside Market was made to ensure it was fully compliant with the local Covid-19 regulations and guidance introduced on Friday, September 18.

He added: “It was not something we did lightly as we are well aware of how important the market is to traders, and equally how popular it is among residents and visitors to the city.

“But given its open nature it was not deemed possible to ensure Covid-secure protocols could be maintained to ensure social distancing was followed and different households and support bubbles did not mix. This is much more difficult to manage than in licensed venues and places such as the Grainger Market which have more robust procedures in place and staff to manage them.

“While we appreciate it is especially difficult for traders, we have a duty to protect residents and will to continue to do everything possible to tackle rising infection rates.

“We do not want businesses to suffer and part of our request for additional restrictions was a call for greater support for businesses and we continue to press government for further financial assistance.

“Once we are in a position where infection rates are under control we can work with the government to ease local restrictions but until that point we need everybody in our region to do what is being asked, and in the meantime we will continue to lobby for extra support.”