EMPTY units at Oxford’s historic Covered Market will be divided up to attract new businesses.

After finalising a £1.3m investment, to complete a long-term refurbishment of the market roof, managers at the city council are focusing their attention on filling the empty units.

Traders were stunned last year when fishmongers Haymans pulled out, to relocate to its base at Osney Mead.

Now £130,000 will be spent to split the former fishmongers in two, to make it more attractive to prospective tenants and the return of fresh fish is not being ruled out.

At the same time, the former Helen and Douglas House shop is also being divided, costing £40,000.

Mary Clarkson, executive member for culture and city centre, said: “The Covered Market – like markets across the country – is going through a period of evolution as people’s shopping habits change, and we are working with prospective new traders to make sure our units meet their needs.

“The market is the jewel in the crown of Oxford’s retail offer, and it’s filled with local and independent retailers that showcase the very best of local food and drink, crafts, gifts, and fashion.

“I would encourage everyone to see this for themselves – and, while they’re there, to do their weekly food shopping.”

Sandie Griffith, who runs Jemini Flowers, and is secretary of the Covered Market Tenants Association, welcomed the council’s approach as landlords.

She said: “It’s very sensible for the council to divide up the units because it will make them more affordable and therefore more attractive to prospective businesses.

“I’m pleased the council is finding the money to do this - it’s very positive - and I’m still hopeful that we will see a fishmonger return - it was such a blow when Haymans shut.”

Mrs Griffith said she was selling Jemini Flowers, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014, as a going concern, and will continue in her role as secretary of the CMTA.

She added: “We have some new directors, including Panny Skrivanos of the Souvlaki Brothers and they are feeling positive about the future.”

The refurbishment to the roof of the Grade II-listed market started in 2010 and has so far seen £500,000 spent by the council on the first three phases of the seven-phase project. A further £1.3m investment will take place over the next four years.

The roof has a timber frame and is constructed from traditional Welsh Slate and cast iron trusses.

The total £1.8m investment is part of a £3.1m project to refurbish the attraction. The other £1.3m will be spent on internal refurbishment, decorations and flooring.

Other vacant units within the Covered Market are the former Macsamillion shoe shop units and the former Mc Carthy’s greengrocers. The council is also working with Oxford Preservation Trust to preserve original and features in the former Lindsey’s butchers.