Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Future of Lancaster Market discussed

After the decision at Council earlier this month, members of Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet have met with local market traders, representatives of the National Federation of Market Traders, and other experts as part of Cabinet’s discussion on the future of Lancaster Market.

This special working group, open to all members of Cabinet, has met three times over the last week and spent more than 12 hours listening to information and advice and asking questions, as well as discussing a number of issues and options for reducing the market’s current deficit of more than £400,000 a year.

The views of the Cabinet working group, which will meet again on Thursday (18th March) and Tuesday 23rd March, will enable Cabinet to make formal proposals to Council on the future of the market.

In addition to hearing from the existing market traders, on two occasions, and the National Federation of Market Traders, the working group has gathered evidence from the National Association of British Market Authorities, Cushman and Wakefield (the agents hired by the council following an earlier Cabinet decision to find a retailer for the market), the strategic director of Blackburn with Darwen Council (which itself is undergoing changes regarding its market), and Quarterbridge (specialists in the development of retail markts).

On Thursday it will discuss the options with the Chamber of Commerce.

In a joint statement, Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet said: “The city council and local taxpayers are losing more than £400,000 a year in running Lancaster Market which is not sustainable. We need to find a way forward for the future of the market.

“We appreciate the public interest in the future of the market and these sessions have been helpful in helping us gather evidence that will be key to helping Cabinet to prepare its proposals. Our thanks to everyone who has participated.”

Cabinet will formally meet on 23rd March at 3.30pm (not 2pm as previously indicated) at Lancaster Town Hall to prepare its proposals to Council. Options include, amongst others, consideration of a business plan from the market traders, the alternative of a single storey market, alternative market sites and the option of a single trader.

A report will then be prepared for consideration by Full Council at a special meeting on March 31 which will be held at 6pm at Lancaster Town Hall.

1 comment:

Cllr. J. R. Mace said...

In his "Lancaster Market Survey", Cllr. Langhorn has restricted the choices for the future of the Market to:-

Leave matters as they are now (at a cost of £500,000 a year)
Move the market to a cheaper site (say, St. Leonard’s Gate?)
Traders to occupy the top floor only (let the rest & save £250,000)
Help traders move to vacant shops in Lancaster

I hope he has not equally restricted the terms of reference of the Working Group he set up to consider the future of the Market.

In looking for alternative ways of reducing the deficit, he appears to have chosen to ignore those options suggested by the Market Tenants Association that were supported by the Conservative Group as "meriting further investigation". Instead, he seems to be persisting with the limited range of options set out in his "Lancaster Market Survey".

One suggestion from the Traders Association would see the Traders forming a Limited company to run the Market, so allowing the Traders themselves to improve the market, and control their own destiny. To proceed in this way is probably less of a risk to all concerned than some of the other plans under discussion.

It concerns me that in the haste to finalise things by 31 March, time may not be made available for this proposal to be properly investigated - and for terms of a suitable agreement between a Market Tenants' Company and the City Council to be negotiated.

The Council Leader correctly reports that Conservatives did not support the setting up of a Cabinet Working Group to report back to a Council meeting on 31 March - but he "conveniently" fails to report the Conservative Amendment on the Market at the Budget Council on 3 March - an amendment which clearly "put the ball in the traders' court" and would have given the traders control of their own destiny and the opportunity to negotiate on all their proposals - not just on those options offered to them by the Council.

Cllr. J. R. Mace