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Cambridge City Council

Cambridge Market Square project

Cambridge market square

As owners of the market square and its seven-day-a-week market, we started work in 2018 to consider a multi-million-pound project to transform the design, appearance and day, evening and night time use of this key city centre space, while being sensitive to its rich heritage value and safeguarding the future of its daily local market. 

Since then, we have held a series of workshops with community stakeholders, including market traders, to help inform the project (Concept Design); run a public consultation and conducted a formal review of the project in 2021; and subsequently approved a high level vision for the Market Square in 2022.

Vision for the Market Square

An inspiring, strategic public realm heart to the city centre, the market square will be welcoming to all to work, visit and spend time here.

A 21st century international and local multi-generational and multi-cultural space, celebrating Cambridge’s history and heritage, it integrates a thriving, sustainable, accessible, safe and open environment, connecting the surrounding streets with spaces to shop, wander, stop and socialise.

A bustling 7-day market, space for seating and eating, additional business and social opportunities and engaging and inclusive cultural events will add to the richness of the area, making this an active day and evening hub in the city centre for local businesses, residents, and the wider community.

Civic Quarter project

In January 2024, we announced plans to bring the Market Square project into a wider ‘Civic Quarter’ project. This is a once-in-a-century opportunity to make improvements to the Market Square, the Guildhall (the council’s historic headquarters), the Corn Exchange, and the public areas in between, to secure the continuing success of the market and to make the ageing buildings fit for the future.

The Civic Quarter project will take the next steps toward fulfilling the vision for the Market Square (set out above), building on the learnings from previous consultations. For example, we would like to reassure traders that we recognise concerns raised about the demountable stalls trialled during an earlier phase of work, and would need to investigate alternative options should this be needed.

We welcome feedback from traders at all times, and will be proactively seeking their input in to the next steps of the Civic Quarter project in the coming months.

Supporting the Market Square

Incorporating the Market Square into the Civic Quarter does not mean that work to support the Market Square in the meantime is on hold. Current projects to improve the Market Square include:

  • Providing a temporary fix to address issues with intermittent power supply – contractors will be on site to investigate and remedy from early March
  • Undertaking emergency repairs to granite setts that will last for the next few years while the wider Civic Quarter project is being designed – some adaptations have been completed with further work planned for spring or summer 2024
  • Reviewing waste management processes to address concerns about unsightly bins and compactors
  • Improving safety lighting by autumn 2024, to provide more efficient and brighter LEDs on Market Hill, as well as under canopy lighting during both the day and evening
  • New ‘help points’ were installed on the square in 2023, to act as a point of safety for members of the public, particularly vulnerable individuals or those who feel at risk. They are visible by the CCTV cameras within the square and connected via intercom to operatives in the CCTV control room 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Updating cleaning processes to balance caring for the setts alongside improving the cleanliness of the square

Support for traders

  • Working with BID, the council will be investigating opportunities to better publicise what’s on at the market
  • Later in the spring we will be launching two programmes to support market traders. We bid for this funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, administered by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority:
    • 20 market traders in Greater Cambridge will be able to apply for £1,000 to enhance their current business operations, and access advice and support to help develop their business.
    • A Youth Enterprise Support Programme will support young people who want to become market traders to get started – for example by offering them coaching and free pitches to test their business ideas.

Project news

Market status: March 2024

At Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee on 21 March, councillors supported the recommendation to confirm the status of the market, and the powers under which it is managed and operated.

Approval means officers can now start to develop a markets licensing policy, to enable the council to determine the number, quality, and balance of markets within the wider Cambridge area.

A consultation with traders will start after the May local elections, with a report due to be considered in the autumn.

Liaison group meetings

A meeting of the Market Square Liaison Group was held on 27 September 2023. There were two presentations about current work and the recently completed access audit:

At the meeting on 14 November 2022 there were three presentations:

A copy of the meeting minutes and presentation shown at the meeting are attached below:

The inaugural meeting of the Market Square Liaison Group, which was formed to keep stakeholders with an interest in the project informed of developments, was held on 29 June 2022.

A copy of the meeting minutes and slide deck shown at the meeting are attached below:

Stage 1: Feasibility assessment

We completed the feasibility assessment stage of the project in 2019 with the publication of the following report and summary:

In early 2020, we held a series of workshops with a range of community stakeholders, including market traders, to help inform the next stage of the project (Concept Design). The results of these meetings are available to read:

Stage 2: Concept design

The public consultation that ran between 19 May and 31 July 2021 was issued before the Council agreed a more formal review of the project.  This was undertaken in the latter part of 2021 following a variety of concerns raised. As a result of the review, the update report submitted to the Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee in March 2022 saw an amended draft high level Vision approved.  Any future project proposals that arise will be re-developed within the wider framework of the following considerations, alongside the consultation responses which were taken into account within the Committee report:

  • The wider recovery of the City Centre and the support which the Council’s assets may play in contributing to the recovery
  • The reiteration of the Council’s commitment to the 7-day market, with some more flexible use of the space, where appropriate
  • The timing and requirements for two major projects which are likely to directly affect the square, namely the potential for a district heat network within the city (on which a feasibility report is expected early in 2023); and Greater Cambridge Partnership’s proposed road network hierarchy changes, on which consultation is due Summer 2022
  • The statutory requirements for listed assets maintenance alongside other compliance requirements
  • The need to consider the Council’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon status for its assets by 2030

Over the past couple of years, the Council has gained much feedback on the needs and wishes for possible improvements to the Market Square, through a range of key stakeholder events/ meetings. Over that period, which has included challenges arising from the pandemic, it has become clear that the development of any project for the Market Square is highly complex and needs to be considered within a wider range of issues than just the square itself.  The consultation has provided a further wide range of valuable feedback, which will remain a very important element of any amended proposals which may come forward in the future and we have published a report on its analysis [PDF, 1.5MB].

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