IT WAS once a bustling market, packed full of busy stallholders with scores of people buzzing around looking for bargains.
But today, the Open Market in Brook Street is quiet, deserted by many of the traders who used to make a living there.
Stallholders say they are disheartened by how quiet the market has become over the past few months.
Some said that the current doom and gloom surrounding the economy and strong competition from cheap shops were to blame, while others blamed an increase in stall rents by Kirklees Council for its present state.
The general market on Mondays and Thursdays used to be packed full of shoppers, but now only a handful of stalls are in use.
One stallholder said: “It’s disheartening to see – the market was once one of the best in the country.”
The market, next to the Tesco store, has been a bustling hub in the town since the Victorian area.
Its original site on Great Northern Street became the town’s cattle market and the market stallholders moved a few hundred yards to Brook Street.
It grew to the point where traders were having to sign up to a waiting list to secure the best spots.
Thousands of people would flock there on the market’s most popular days, making it one of the busiest in the country.
But over the last couple of years it has dwindled in popularity and, particularly in the last year, stallholders have either been forced to move into the nearby covered market, or packed up completely and left.
Stallholder Kevin Day blamed a hike in the fees the council is charging for use of the stalls.
He said: “The amount we have to pay for stalls has gone up 6% in the last year and a lot of good traders have packed in because they can’t afford to keep going.
“The council is more bothered about concentrating on doing up the indoor part and getting people to fill the empty stalls in there. Some have moved in but the rest of us are staying put.”
Mr Day and his family have had stalls at the market for 27 years.
He said: “It used to be full of stalls which went right the way down to where the car park is now. When I first came I waited on a list for weeks to get a spot.
“It used to be the best market in the country, but if it keeps going the way it is then I predict it will be gone in a few years. It’s a shame to see it so empty.”
Another stallholder, who started working on stalls at the open market with his parents in 1951, said: “It’s very sad to see.
“We’re not getting the people here any more. We’re struggling to compete with all the supermarkets and the pound shops selling cheap goods. We need more support. The message is if you don’t use it you lose it.”
The market is getting a major revamp at the moment as part of Kirklees Council’s £4m programme to improve all its markets.
Clr Ken Sims, the council’s Cabinet member for regeneration, said he believed that trade would pick up again once the work on the Open Market was complete in the next few months.
He said: “Things are quiet everywhere on the shopping front at the moment, but I do think that the renovation work that has been carried out on the market these past 18 months has also had a negative effect.
“I am confident that when the new-look market is complete people will come back again and we will be promoting it, but it’s not all to do with the renovation work.
“A lot is to do with the national picture and the current economic conditions.”
A council spokeswoman said rent had risen by 4.5% in the last year, not 6%. That figure was a reduction on the original proposed increase and was delayed for six months to help traders.