Neighbours seek ‘safe’ social distancing pledge ahead of Columbia Road Flower Market reopening

As with all outdoor markets, Columbia Road Flower Market closed during lockdown, but could reopen af

As with all outdoor markets, Columbia Road Flower Market closed during lockdown, but could reopen after the government announced an easing of measures introduced to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Picture: Isabel Infantes - Credit: Archant

A neighbours’ group has said the popular Columbia Road Flower Market in Bethnal Green should remain closed unless “safe” social distancing can be maintained.

Columbia Tenants and Residents Association (CTRA) members issued the plea following the government’s announcement that outdoor markets could reopen from June 1.

In a statement on its website, the CTRA states: “Columbia Road Flower Market sits at the centre of our community. It is a colourful, vibrant London market and we are lucky to have it on our doorstep.

“The fact that the Covid-19 lockdown, quite rightly, closed the market for so long, jeopardising the livelihoods of the traders, some of whom have owned pitches for generations, has been a great cause of concern locally.

“Given how busy and tightly packed the market can be on a usual Sunday, we urge the council and traders to work together to find a safe solution that allows and enforces social distancing to safeguard residents, visitors and traders alike.

“If no safe solution can be found then, sadly, we would prefer to see the market stay closed for now.”

The CTRA statement ends by calling on Tower Hamlets Council to share plans for the reopening, which could be on June 8.

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Columbia Road Flower Market did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the town hall said officers have been planning for the reopening of markets for some time and exploring options to do so in a safe way.

He added: “There are significant challenges involved and it is clear that in the short term at least, our markets will look and feel quite different from what we are used to.

“Traders are being asked to look at their operating models and to put plans in place that would allow them to operate in a safe and socially distanced way.

“Traders who cannot demonstrate that they have proper plans in place will not be allowed to reopen.”

The spokesperson went on to say that planning will continue in the coming week, adding that the local authority’s markets team will be in touch with traders to discuss a return to the market when it is safe to do so.