Friday, 19 February 2010

Lancaster Market to close by end of year?

Lancaster MarketLancaster Market could shut by the end of the year, according to a report in the Lancaster Guardian today.

The paper reports that the council has agreed in principle to close the indoor market and lease it to a single retailer, a decision was made in light of the market's growing debts and one council leaders was not taken lightly.

The decision is subject to approval by full council at its final budget meeting on 3rd March. A Facebook campaign group has already launched protesting the plan.

Councillor John Whitelegg has condemned the planned closure.

In 2009/10, the market lost £461,000 and this is expected to rise to £492,000 in the next financial year. A retailer for the site has, according to various news reports, been found, but has not yet been named.

Market traders will be offered places on the city's outdoor Charter Market on Wednesday and Saturdays or at Morecambe's Festival Market, but BBC News reports that the 29 market stall holders want more than the basic compensation for the closure. The City Council has refused.

Lancaster's old market after it was gutted by fireThe decision comes as no surprise to many: after the devastating fire in the 1980s that put paid to the old Victorian market - at the time, underinsured by the then Conservative administration and therefore unable to be re-build it - the creation of a new Lancaster market was bedevilled by setbacks to plans for a major shopping development (itself a victim of the 1980s 'credit crunch'), relocation to the bus station and, finally, the move to a building many still describe as 'not fit for purpose'.

With a confusing layout and poor planning - opponents point to placing fishmongers on the south and sunniest side of the building, for example - Lancaster's current market has long been ridiculed and it always seemed ripe for takeover by a single retailer that would make more coherent use of the retail space.

Dennis Buczynski, owner of Gregory's butchers and a market committee member, told the Guardian traders were disappointed with their treatment by the council.

"We had a long-term commitment from them," he said. "This is people's livelihoods; there are more than 30 businesses here employing more than 100 people."

"The people that first did this deal should be brought to book," he added. "They should come to this market and come tell us how us traders are going to cope for the rest of our lives. Our livelihood is at stake."

"I'm really unhappy about the cabinet decision to close the market and I hope it will be challenged and over-turned in the next few weeks," says Green councillor John Whitelegg. "This all goes back to the disastrous decisions of local politicians in the 1980s to sell off a market that we owned and paid no rent, and exchanged this for a rental deal that costs us over £300,000 a year. This always was bonkers.

"Recent council decisions beggar belief," he added. "The decision to go with the Centros plan for the canal corridor (now thankfully defeated) would have led to the closure of many of our city centre shops. The decision to shut a traditional northern town market robs us of one of the special things that makes Lancaster such a wonderful place.

"The market should not be shut.What's now needed is a determined effort to find out how successful markets up and down the country operate and do everything possible to make it successful."

Read the Lancaster' Guardian's report in full

• Lancaster Markets Official web site:

Facebook Protest against the closure

Read our 2003 article on the issues that faced Lancaster Market


John Freeman said...

This has been a disaster for small traders just waiting to happen for years - and the Council is to blame for it, for all its bleating and hand wringing now.

If you talk to some of the traders who moved out over the years, they'll tell you some of the dirty dealings that went on behind the scenes that led to the mess the Market is currently in. The Council could simply move the Market - why not let it take over Lancaster Town Hall, and save the taxpayers some money by putting that building to better use?

I feel sorry for all the businesses and people affected by this: the City Council is totally to blame for the situation, but the Market itself is dreadful in terms of layout (not the businesses that have stuck with it, all power to them).

You're always seeing people confused by the layout, trying to work out how they got in.

I remember John Whitelegg criticizing the plans when they were drawn up, but he was ignored. Sad that he has now been proved right all along.

Richard Robinson said...

But, this would be a disaster for the town. I don't remember the old market, I haven't been here long enough, and agree that the new one ain't that great, but for all its faults, the stalls sell good local food. Whatever they plan to replace it with, will they sell local game ? Lune salmon, fresh Lancashire cheese in a variety of strengths ? Let alone the new additions, selling foods I can't even pronounce ? Or will all these be replaced by supermarket versions from elsewhere ?

Not to knock the trestle tables out on the street, it's a fine thing, but to drive all the current inside-market stalls out into the cold would hardly be an improvement on the current situation.

The council seem hell-bent on selling the town to some corporation or other.