Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 11:52 UK

Market launch beats credit crunch

By Nick Parry
BBC News website

Staff at Richard's Cooked Meats
Market hall traders said they were impressed by their new home

It has taken more than six years since the plans were first unveiled but Carmarthen's new £4m indoor market has finally opened.

As Wales fly-half Stephen Jones cut the tape the initial opposition and scepticism of traders and shoppers seemed to have largely disappeared.

They were initially concerned for the future of the 800-year-old market as plans were drawn up for a major redevelopment of the town centre.

There were petitions and protests, while every other car in the town appeared to have a sticker reading Save Carmarthen Market in its rear windscreen.

Work finally started early in 2008 after developers Simons and Carmarthenshire council refined their plans.

The feedback on opening morning seemed to show all the work had been worth it.

Dominic Hayes, managing director of Simons, said had it been delayed any longer the credit crunch would have stopped it starting at all.

Stephen Jone and Hugh Richards
Wales fly-half Stephen Jones opened the market in his home town

"We managed to secure the whole funding for this in February and to the best of my knowledge I don't think there are any schemes like this since that date that have been funded so can progress," he said.

The new market hall is part of a wider £74m redevelopment that will see a multi screen cinema, over 30 new shops including a Debenhams department store, a multi storey car park and new restaurants and cafes.

"We have one other scheme on site ourselves, but we have also put together a huge scheme in Wakefield which is probably three times the size of the Carmarthen scheme and that's gone into administration and is half built," he added.

"The funding just is not there at the moment so it's testimony to the council to overcome a lot of local, understandable, opposition to secure that investment for Carmarthen."

The market hall is fully let to 74 traders and Mr Hayes said the rest of the redevelopment - called St Catherine's Walk - would be completed next year.

Liz Bellamy
We are a big part of this town, a big tourist attraction
Liz Bellamy

"We are starting to get good tenant interest now although we would like a bit more and I hope the retailers come out of their hibernation - we are about 70% let," he added.

Chairwoman of the market tenants committee, Liz Bellamy, said she was delighted with the new hall.

"You can't fault it really - we've been waiting for this since 2003," she said.

"They wanted to put us right at the back in the original plans but we fought that - said no we are a big part of this town, a big tourist attraction - so they then rightly decided that we would be part of the main shopping precinct.

"We've had a bad year - we can't say we have not because we've had a building site in between us and the town so it has been difficult.

"But now we are here and we here to hopefully be successful."

Her sentiments were echoed by staff at Richard's Cooked Meats.

"This must be the best market in Wales," said Richard.

"People will come just to see the building I think.

"We were all a little bit sceptical when it went up, but getting in here now it grows on you every day. People in Carmarthen should be proud of it."

Lloyd James of St Clears was one of the first shoppers through the doors and said he was a little disappointed that not all the stores had opened.

But he added: "At first glance I'm quite impressed.

"I think in terms of the building it is much lighter and much more impressive."

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New 4m market hall opens doors
08 Apr 09 |  South West Wales

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