Lancaster City Council has just issued a new statement about Lancaster Market, clarifying its position on keeping some details of the plans confidential, clearly concerned that leaks about the plans may damage its relationship with private business.
This morning, the Green Party published a press release confirming that the new supermarket operation ASCO had been approached to be the single retailer that might take over the Market building (see news story).
Until now, although questioned, no-one from the Council had officially confirmed or denied ASCO had been approached, even though a council officer had mentioned the retailer at a meeting with market traders last Monday, and other correspondence from the Council - some of it issued by solicitors - appeared to confirm other speculative questions about the Council's plan for the Market, which will be discussed at Full Council on Wednesday.
Since proposals for the possible closure of Lancaster Market broke, the Council says it has received a number of questions and enquiries, despite issuing a statement and publishing of a "Questions and Answers" document. Now, the following statement has been prepared by the council's chief executive, Mark Cullinan, in response to these enquiries.
“Proposals of the sort involving Lancaster Market are put before Cabinet only after they have been rigorously scrutinised using professional means by the council’s officers, including the taking of external expert advice where necessary.
“These officers have years of experience in dealing with such matters and rumour and innuendo from the internet do not form the basis for providing sound alternative advice," he adds. “To enable them to make their decision, Cabinet members were presented with details of the company involved and a full analysis of the benefits and risks, both financially and legally, to the city council of letting the building to this single retailer.
“This remains confidential in nature at this time due to commercial sensitivities.
“Whilst cabinet was provided with the detailed report on the day, Cabinet members were given the option of adjourning the meeting, for example for a week or so, but on balance decided to deal with the matter on the day in the knowledge that the report would be referred to Full Council 15 days later as some of the financial implications needed the approval of Full Council.
“When dealing with transactions of this sort the council needs to keep the details confidential to ensure that it is in a strong negotiating position.
“Companies also expect and require confidentiality.
“To reveal details would put the district in a weaker position to attract other private enterprises which may be interested in developing their business in this district in the future.”
• Several online groups are discussing options for the future of the market: this Facebook group has the highest membership, but there are others. A petition is also being circulated around Lancaster Market for people to sign. Over 7000 people have signed so far.
• Lancaster City Council Full Council will take place at 2.00pm on Wednesday 3rd March at Morecambe Town Hall. Campaigners will march from Lancaster Market at 12:15 prompt to Morecambe to vent their anger at the closure plans. Click here for agenda details on the City Council web site
• Lancaster City Council Statement on Lancaster Market
• Lancaster City Council: Lancaster Market Q&As (PDF link)