Philipsburg Market vendors demand fair space allocation

Philipsburg Market vendors  demand fair space allocation

Above: The architectural rendering previously presented by former TEATT Minister Omar Ottley, which was agreed on by all market vendors.

Below: The latest design featuring smaller vendor booths, making room for taxis and a bus ramp.

PHILIPSBURG--The 66 vending permit holders at the Philipsburg Marketplace have denounced the latest plans for the new marketplace and have declared that they will not cooperate by removing their tents and merchandize for the yet-to-be-announced groundbreaking. Their spokesperson, market vendor Ingrid Grell, said the vendors are awaiting the new government to advance the project.

The market vendors, Grell said, are “very upset” with outgoing Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Arthur Lambriex. According to Lambriex's disclosures in Parliament on Thursday, he sanctioned a different design for the new marketplace than the one presented to the vendors for approval by his predecessor, Omar Ottley.

Lambriex informed Members of Parliament on Thursday that the market vendors purportedly had consented to the plans for the market. The newly-constructed marketplace, he said, “will accommodate 55 vendors” and will comprise booths measuring “9 feet by 9 feet” (approximately 7.5 square metres) each.

Grell, who occupied a seat in the public tribune of Parliament, carefully listened to the Minister's responses to questions posed by Democratic Party Members of Parliament (MPs) Sarah Wescot-Williams and Grisha Heyliger-Marten. Expressing disbelief, Grell later remarked to “The Daily Herald”, “I could not believe what I heard. The minister has downsized our marketplace, leaving each of us with a booth the size of a chicken coop.”

Grell emphasised that the vendors had not been consulted regarding the new layout. “If any of the vendors were contacted by Minister Lambriex or a member of his staff, they would have certainly informed me, just as they instructed me to attend Parliament on Thursday to listen to what the Minister had to say,” she said.

“The Daily Herald” learned from market vendors that Lambriex had not engaged with them in any capacity since Parliament’s Committee for Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication convened with representatives of the market vendors on November 7, 2023. It was during this crucial parliamentary session that the long-anticipated groundbreaking for the new marketplace was announced, set for December 5, 2023.

In response to queries from MPs regarding the delay in the anticipated groundbreaking, Lambriex cited a “change in advice” as the reason. However, according to the market vendors, they were not notified about this change and have not received any updates since the November 7, 2023, TEATT Committee meeting of Parliament.

Last week Thursday, March 21, Lambriex issued a press release announcing that, following “a decisive meeting of the Council of Ministers, the time has come for the transformation of Philipsburg Marketplace to begin officially.”

Accompanying the press release was an aerial-view image of the new marketplace, depicting parking spaces carved out of the current location of the marketplace on the right side. “I had never seen this picture before,” said Grell. “From what I gather from the minister's responses, these parking spaces are intended for taxis.” Additionally, Grell expressed concerns over the

minister’s plans for a bus ramp on Cannegieterstreet, positioned at the entrance to the marketplace, which would result in the sacrifice of four vendor booths.

“Our marketplace is being downsized to accommodate taxis and the bus ramp, without us ever having been consulted about this,” said Grell, who highlighted that the 66 market vendors, all dependent on the market for their livelihoods, are furious. “We are not going to cooperate,” she firmly stated.

The architectural rendering that the vendors previously agreed on depicted booths measuring 100 square feet (approximately 9 square metres). Grell explained that this size can accommodate racks of clothes and allow for one or two tourists to walk into each booth. “It's not large, but we were satisfied with the design of the new marketplace as it was presented to us at the government building by former TEATT Minister Omar Ottley. We all approved of it. However, the picture we are now seeing shows something entirely different,” Grell lamented.

The market vendors lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman on November 23, 2023. Grell said they would await the outcome of this process and the formation of the new government before proceeding with any further steps for the advancement of the project.

The Daily Herald

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