Fuengirola's indoor market, Mercacentro, has 99 stalls, of which only 30 are currently open. In the last month three have closed down due to lack of trade, despite the market's prime location in the town centre. Stallholders have blamed the lack of business in the market on the local council, which, they say, is “neglecting” the building so that the traders give up their stalls and it can be used for new ventures.
One of the traders, José Manuel Escalona, said that the problem dated back to the days of former mayor Esperanza Oña. “They told us then that a private firm was going to pay for renovation work when it took over the building, but that promise came to nothing,” he explained.
“Some days I only take 10 euros and I have to pay an employee,” he added. “They've told us that they can't spend any more on Mercacentro because the people don't want them to. I think they want to let us die so that they can set something else up here,” he said.
Escalona added that the building is in a pitiful state and needs urgent work. He also said that they weren't allowed to rent the counters to anyone showing an interest, and that when a stall has been empty two months the lease is recovered by the council.
Fishmonger Antonio Peinado is equally concerned. He has a 40-year lease with nine years left. “As we paid in full in the first ten years, now they aren't making any money out of us and that's the issue,” he said.
Neither Escalona nor Peinado likes the idea of the traders paying a private firm to renovate the building themselves, but they say that not even that option has been possible.
“Why can't they do as in other places, like Malaga, where the council has invested in doing up the markets?” they asked.
Fuengirola town hall has said that the building has no problems that prevent commercial activity from taking place there.
“No interior improvement or remodelling project has been undertaken because the traders want to change the layout and all move to the ground floor. That is only possible by changing the conditions of the concession: a reduction in square metres and financial conditions,” said the authority in a statement.
So far, said the town hall, not all of the concession holders have individually accepted these new conditions.
Proposals made by the Ciudadanos political group to include funds in the 2018 council budget to improve the Mercacentro building were rejected when the accounts were passed this week.