IT IS one of the most famous shopping districts in Scotland and is home to an eclectic mix of independent stores and traders.
The Barras market in the east end of Glasgow has been part of the city’s fabric for almost a century, taking its name from the barrow stalls that were once ubiquitous in the area.
But established businesses have expressed concerns following reports the local authority wishes to see the “shabby and underwhelming” district repositioned as an events and cultural quarter.
A consultation paper considered by Glasgow City Council’s economy policy committee this week outlined a masterplan for the Barras and wider Calton district.
It notes the “number of challenges” the area faces, particularly in terms of vacant or underused land, and mentions more could be done to capitalise on the Barras’ association with live music, centred on the revered Barrowland Ballroom.
It mentions the opening of St Lukes - a venue and restaurant housed in a former church - and the Barras Art and Design studio as two examples of the kinds of businesses which have flourished in the area in recent years, while the number of traditional stallholders has declined.
“The area still lacks vibrancy when venues are closed or during the week when many businesses seem to operate from behind roller shutters, offering nothing to the street in terms of atmosphere and activity,” the report states.
“Weekend markets and stalls are much quieter than they were in decades past and the level of trading and take-up of stalls is substantially lower than it was ten years ago.”
Yet fixtures of the Barras scene say the situation has not been helped by years of council neglect. Proposed remedial works such as improved street lighting and better marketing of the area have long been called for.
Bridal store Reeta Fashions has been based in the Gallowgate since 1951. Owner Stuart Lang said he took any council plans “with a pinch of salt”.
“We’ve been here before,” he said. “There were was talk in the 1990s of opening a railway station at Glasgow Cross, and covering the market streets with glass canopies. Neither happened.
“We’re closer to George Square than Charing Cross is, but we feel on the edge of the city - not in the heart of it.
“There is a lot going on round here. We have Glasgow Green, the People’s Palace and the famous Ballroom. More needs to be done to encourage people down here.”
Lorraine Mair, who has sold children’s clothing from various pitches in the Barras for more than 25 years, admitted footfall in the area had steeply declined.
“The council closed Paddy’s market, and I’m worried that’s what they want to do here.
“They could advertise it better. We need more traders to open up. Who is going to want to come to an art market?”
The local authority has already invested £6 million on physical improvements to the area, but will be able to spend a further £27m as part of the £1 billion City Deal that was announced in 2014.
It insisted the markets remained part of its long-term vision for Calton.
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “The Barras is a legendary part of Glasgow’s social and cultural landscape, but it is an area that has felt cut-off from the rest of the city and is in need of a boost.
“There has been a sizeable investment in the area in recent years and you can see that in the improvements that have been made to shop fronts and the public spaces, such as Barrowlands Park.
“The City Deal has given us a much greater scope to drive forward our plans for the Barras and the surrounding area, with £27million earmarked to undertake a whole range of works around the Barras and the wider Calton area that will make the most of its proximity to the city centre.
“We want to see the Barras as a destination for visitors, with a mix of old and new businesses, while still retaining the essential character of the place.
“Our plans involve improving all kinds of transport links, making the general environment as welcoming and sustainable as possible and enhancing connections with local communities.”