MARKET traders have said a public “piazza” in the proposed £20m Jericho Boatyard redevelopment scheme could revitalise their businesses.
It comes as Jericho’s Grade-I listed church could undergo alterations to become “the focal point” of the new square.
Details revealed last Monday show work to establish the piazza in front of St Barnabas Church would see its main entrance move to its western facade.
Its current entrance will gain a ramp for wheelchair access and the area in front of the historic building will be paved “in radial patterns”.
Caroline Casey, who runs Jericho’s fresh food market, which opens every second Saturday of the month, said the new space would make “a massive difference” to traders.
She said: “We were based outside St Barnabas Church until recently, but we moved to Walton Street to get more footfall.
“It is difficult to get people down to the church, but we would be more than happy to move back there if the new square was opened. It would be much more accessible and make a massive difference to traders.”
St Barnabas Church parish priest Jonathan Beswick, who has been consulted on the proposals, said: “There are many benefits to opening up the front of the church.
“But of course it has to be done properly.”
If approved the changes, proposed by developer Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHAF), would also see a ground-floor extension in the vicarage flattened to make way for a new two-storey extension. It would not be visible from the street, the firm said.
Parking spaces lost by the front of the church are to be relocated and the western boundary wall would be removed.
Removable bollards are to be installed to restrict vehicle access to the square.
Designs for the piazza have been inspired by “campos” — squares — in Venice.
In its planning submission SIAHAF said: “The square is envisaged as a relatively informal, public space which will become the focus for a number of activities.
“The idea of the Venetian campo has been used as one reference, particularly the scale and enclosure of smaller informal spaces such as Campo San Pantalon.
“At weekends and on summer evenings it will attract more visitors and it is proposed the café and restaurant set up tables and chairs for customers in the square.”
The firm added it hoped farmers’ markets and concerts could also use the space.
SIAHAF spokesman Nick Band said: “St Barnabas is the focal point for the redevelopment of Jericho Wharf and we believe it deserves to be presented in all its architectural glory.
“We aim to connect the church directly to the public square and canal.”