After many delays and confusion from some stall holders about its future and much-discussed changes to stop it from being closed, the future of Lancaster Market will again be debated at Full Council next week, on Wednesday 14th September.
Although Council previously decided not to close the Market after a huge outcry from the public, it looks like closure could well be an option. A financial appraisal notes whatever future the Council chooses for the the market, it is expected to cost more than approved budget forecasts.
Just for next year, the estimated increase ranges from £123,000 to £189,000. The total increase up to 2015 ranges from £696,000 to £1.026 million.
The Council discussion comes as more stall holders prepare to leave - the most recent high profile move being the two butchers stalls, to premises near Penny Street - and with a financial appraisal drawing attention to many money worries, including over £28,000 being sought as rent arrears.
Councillors will discuss recommendations made by the council’s Cabinet on 26th July, which were that all market traders be moved onto the ground floor, as a matter of urgency, and rents or service charges not be increased at this point. The Council will also be looking for alternative tenants for the upper floor.
In addition legal agreement needs to be reached with traders on the move to the bottom floor and to costs that traders would pay for moving and fitting out.
The changes are needed quickly, not just for the benefit of existing businesses in the Market, but also to protect the Council's future rental income.
The Council meting will also discuss the recommendations in terms of improved marketing and management recommended to Council in the NCS report received in December 2010. These included new signage and improvements to make the Market more "user-friendly", but incredibly, none of the ideas have been implemented despite being suggested some nine months ago.
The Council meeting will also examine the costs of running the market be examined and whether these can be reduced.
In a statement, the Council says that because of the costs associated with the potential move to the ground floor, the Cabinet recommendations were referred to Full Council.
Cabinet also resolved that a detailed appraisal of the market and its potential financial future be produced for consideration by councillors during their discussions and decision making.
The finacial appraisal identifies the potential costs to the council of operating the market in both the medium and long term and, along with the legal implications, is attached as an appendix to the report.
• Full details of the financial appraisal are available as an appendix to the main report at http://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=305&MId=5586