Award-winning design company wins council contract to pilot new Covered Market outdoor space in Oxford

Published: Friday, 4th August 2023

Oxford City Council has commissioned award-winning design company Urban Movement to pilot the creation of a pedestrian-friendly space outside Oxford’s historic Covered Market.

The temporary trial, which could be implemented in spring 2024, is seeking to reimagine a section of the road to allow space for outdoor seating, market stalls and planters during key daytime hours, creating a more pedestrian-friendly space in Market Street.

This is the first stage of a £6.87Mil project to make essential upgrades and transform the Covered Market, which will also see larger seating areas inside, improved entrances, general building services upgrades and modernisation of the Market Street toilets.

Next year the Covered Market, which is owned and operated by the City Council, will celebrate its 250th anniversary.

Market Street pilot

During the trial, access for motor vehicles to part of Market Street – from outside the Covered Market to Cornmarket Street – will be restricted during the daytime, although cargo bikes and cyclists will still be able to use the street.

The aim is to trial how changes to the street can encourage more people to visit and spend time in the Covered Market and the city centre in general.

Urban Movement, which will oversee the pilot project, has worked on award-winning public spaces and transport projects in London, Manchester, Brighton and Glasgow.

The Urban Movement team will build on the extensive engagement carried out by the Council in 2021 and 2022, and will also carry out their own in-depth engagement with the Covered Market traders and key stakeholders affected by the trial. This will have a particular focus on enabling all key stakeholders to continue with business as usual as much as possible while restricting deliveries and vehicle access during daytime hours to achieve the trial objectives.

The results of the pilot project will then be used to inform the wider redevelopment of the Covered Market.

Covered Market redevelopment

In February 2023, the City Council approved a masterplan – and a £6.87Mil package to help make it happen – to transform the Covered Market.

Alongside creating a pedestrian-friendly space in Market Street, the redevelopment plan also includes:

  • New communal space opening onto Market Street: this will see a large, welcoming seating area created as people enter from Market Street, which will function as a public square during the day and a flexible event space at other times
  • Improved entrances and the introduction of better lighting and signage
  • Essential upgrades to the market’s drainage and building services
  • Modernising the existing Market Street public toilets

The regeneration will respect the unique character, heritage and history of the Covered Market, which first opened in 1774.

The masterplan was created by Gort Scott Architects and a multi-disciplinary team of heritage, transport and environmental experts. Extensive engagement with market traders, Oxford residents and other stakeholders was carried out as part of the process, as well as a period of public consultation in autumn 2022.

Separately, the City Council is investing £3.1Mil to upgrade the Covered Market, including £1.8Mil to secure the roof for another 60 to 80 years and £1.3Mil for internal refurbishment and decorations.


“The trial of a new layout on Market Street for more Covered Market seating and pop-up stalls is an exciting development for the whole city centre. Urban Movement have designed award-winning public spaces in other cities and I’m looking forward to how they will work with traders, local businesses and city centre visitors to create a new feel for the area. We consulted on the Covered Market redevelopment last year and 81% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that a more pedestrian-friendly area on Market Street will encourage more visitors to the Covered Market - this project will turn that aspiration into reality.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council

 “We are thoroughly looking forward to working with the Council, traders, and the people of Oxford to reimagine what Market Street can be, now and in the future, to better serve the city. This trial has the power to help us discuss, test, and refine the best ways forward in creating a modern part of the city centre, committed to delivering better quality of life whilst being rooted in fantastic history. In the future, Market Street can help drive footfall to support local businesses and offer people a new experience of the Covered Market as a place in which they can relax and enjoy city life, and this stage of the conversation is vital in setting the level of ambition we all want to see.”

Christopher Martin, Co-founder and Director of Urban Movement

For more information about the Covered Market, visit: