Despite its concerns about the costs of keeping Lancaster Market open, and the huge amount of research and feedback Lancaster City Council has already undertaken in their efforts to keep it going, the Council has decided it still needs to employ even more expert advisors to recommend ways in which the future of Lancaster Market can be secured.
Let's just hope these advisors have a bit more to them than the ones that recommended the sell-off of the building to the now moribund supermarket chain, ASCO - a plan which Full Council sensibly rejected.
Following the council’s decision earlier this year to keep the market open, prospective advisors are being asked to bid for a contract to put together a comprehensive report on the market.
Areas the successful bidder will be expected to cover in their final report include:
• The viability of providing a predominantly (specialist) food retail market, in the context of Lancaster’s developing role as a heritage city
• Whether the current structure and layout of the market is fit for purpose and to identify any changes, that might be necessary
• What appropriate lease arrangements should be in place between the council and the market traders, including the viability of a tenants’ charter
• Advise to what extent, if any, other complementary, non-physical works are required, e.g. marketing, to ensure a viable market.
• Advise how the indoor and charter markets can be linked
Although the idea of yet more talking and consulting will surely rankle with market traders, the Council's move has been welcomed by one of the major opponents to the proposed ASCO sell-off.
"I have been impressed by the commitment of councillors from all political groups to make the market a success," Coun Jon Barry, chair of the Lancaster Market Cabinet Liaison Group, and one of only two councillor to oppose the Cabinet-backed sell-off plan back in February, said. "We have seen how markets in other towns in the north-west can be the hub of their town centres.
“I am convinced that we can make this happen in Lancaster. Employing proven market experts to draw together all of the ideas about how we can improve our market is the first step towards achieving this.
“I am optimistic about the future of the market and about the city council and market traders working together to make Lancaster market a success."
The deadline for bids for the contract is 24th September. The successful bidder will be chosen by members of the Lancaster Market Cabinet Liaison Group.
It is anticipated that the final report will be presented to the liaison group by the end of the year - almost 12 months since proposals to sell off the Market were first discussed.