Outdoor markets are to be reopened to the public, with strict social distancing measures in place, the Group Party Leaders on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have agreed.
Two council-run markets, in Ballymena and Larne, as well as Carrickfergus Market, which is run by the YMCA, will open for the purchase of essential grocery items including food.
Ballymena Market will be open again from this Saturday onwards, with Larne reopening on Wednesday next, 27 May, and Carrickfergus Market from Thursday 28 May.
In respect of Ballymena Market, car boot sales will not take place until further notice.
Council agreed the decision after considering the value of the weekly markets to traders, shoppers and the borough’s heritage.
The development underpins Council’s commitment to supporting business growth and development in the local area.
In order to protect the health and safety of the public, traders and council staff, a number of changes to the operation of each market will apply.
The markets will open from 9am to 12 noon, with set-up from 8am, and customers will not be permitted access until 9am.
Council staff will be present in Ballymena and Larne to assist with social distancing measures, while customers will be required to adhere to a one-way system of shopping and queuing.
Welcoming the decision, Alderman Audrey Wales MBE, said: “I am very pleased that Council has agreed to reopen the three outdoor weekly markets, in line with the necessary public health guidelines, in order to provide for the sale of essential items. It is so important that we support our local farmers and producers.
“Ballymena Weekly Market has been operating in the town for many years and its origins date back to the 1600s, when King Charles I stipulated a Saturday market under the terms of the sale of the land that Ballymena is built on.
“The reopening of the markets will help provide a safe shopping experience and support the local economy as we move through the first tentative steps towards the easing of lockdown restrictions.”
Alderman Billy Ashe MBE added: “This is a welcome development as I know many local people have been missing being able to go the markets during recent weeks and months.
“I must congratulate the traders and council staff for working together to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to protect the safety of those using the markets in the borough.”
Cllr Gregg McKeen said: “This is an important step in supporting our local economy during a difficult and uncertain time for all sectors.
“With the correct social distancing and public health rules in place, the reopening of our outdoor weekly markets will be done safely and to the benefit of our borough.”