Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Lancaster Market to move?

One of the new designs for the existing market proposed in a new report

Lancaster Market could move from its current location to new premises in the City Museum's current location, if a far-reaching proposal to address its deficit problems gets Council approval.

The scheme, which will see the Museum move elsewhere in Lancaster -- perhaps to the Shire Hall -- will be discussed by Lancaster City Council’s Cabinet next week.

The Museum proposal (PDF Link) comes hot on the heels of the publication of the Council's independent review (PDF Link) into the Market commissioned after Full Council rejected proposals to close it last year. That report, commissioned in September and prepared by the National Association of British Market Authorities, paints a damming picture of the way the Market has been run and is extremely critical of the Market's appearance such as its two-floor layout, and aspects of its management by the Council.

The report offers a number of solutions to improve the existing space, which at present is running at a huge loss, drawing on ideas from a number of successful markets elsewhere in the UK and Europe. These include relatively inexpensive improvements such as improved signage directing potential customers to the Market, an improved stall layout and entranceways - but some of the proposed improvements would have a high capital cost.

In response, Cabinet will discuss the report in the face of wider funding problems for its activities - particularly since the proposed improvement costs might still see no significan rise in user numbers or revenues. On top of those, the cost of repair work to the existing building for items such as lighting, mean a move to the current Museum building in Market Square could, overall, be a cheaper option.

The proposal would include the building of a new extension at the back of the Museum building.

Cabinet members will be asked to agree to further investigations being undertaken next week, to see if this option is feasible in terms of practicalities and cost.

The Council says the advantages of using part of the museum as a market is that it would give traders a more central location and would also tie in well with the traditional Charter Market and the retail heritage tourism offer of the city centre. It could also offer improved museum facilities.

"We are looking at the museum as a potential site for the market," Jon Barry, cabinet member with responsibility for markets, told virtual-lancaster. "The location is excellent and would link in with the outdoor market. There would need to be a new extension built on the back.

"The Museum could either go in a number of different places including other museums, or the same building but utilising other rooms; or, potentially, the Shire Hall [in Lancaster Castle] where the courts are - they want to move."

If this option was pursued the existing indoor market would be converted into a space suitable for letting to alternative retailers. This would look to reduce the deficit the council incurs in running both the market and existing museum.

If Cabinet decides to take this forward, the council will be keen to meet with interested bodies.

“I remain committed to an indoor market in Lancaster," says Jon Barry said. "If using part of the museum site proved to be feasible in terms of both improving museum facilities and creating a more vibrant market which adds to the heritage value of the city, then I think this could be an excellent solution.

"Whilst the details are being worked out, we need to introduce a number of measures to improve the existing market, that doesn't cost a lot of money. I want these to be put into action as soon as possible. It is important that we get more traders into the market to create jobs and to reduce the council's costs on the building."

The idea of moving the Market is, of course, at an early stage, and there are numerous disadvatages to using the Museum building, such as the lack of car parking and what Council officiers describe as "substantial costs" in undertaking both the works to the museum and to the market hall building.

Such a scheme would also need to gain the approval of English Heritage before it could be considered it a serious proposal.

"We would still intend to carry out a lot of the proposals in the market report, but would resist spending big capital amounts at this stage," says Jon. "It may be that these would be better spent on the museum site if it proved a goer."

• The four recommendations Cabinet will be asked to consider are:

(1) That approval be granted to undertake further investigations into the conversion of the City Museum to accommodate Lancaster Market and that a further report is made to cabinet in due course with the costs being funded from the proposed reserve.

(2) To confirm the importance of the King’s Own Royal Regimental Museum in the heritage offer of the district and to seek to improve that offer as part of any change to the City Museum.

(3) That officers be instructed to enter into leases with traders at Lancaster Market Hall that would allow for the potential relocation to new premises or a break or redevelopment clause for the purpose of refurbishing and revitalising the market hall (should transfer into alternative premises not prove feasible).

(4) That whilst investigations are undertaken into the conversion of the City Museum, measures continue to be implemented within Lancaster Market to improve its appearance and to continue with improved management and marketing of the market.

• The Council's Cabinet will meet at 10.00am at Morecambe Town Hall on Tuesday 15th February to discuss the Market's future. The full agenda is here on the Council web site

• The Museum proposal (PDF Link)
• Lancaster Market Review (PDF Link)


Anonymous said...

Shunting the market to the castle might be convenient for the Council, but it wouldn't be for shoppers.

Can you imagine people trekking away from town, over the main road and up Castle Hill to get to the market? I can't.

How about the market is moved to the town hall? The Council can then either be moved to cheaper premises in the middle of nowhere (after all, there's little reason for them to be occupying valuable town centre space) or into the Castle dungeon, which is where most of them would have been a few centuries ago anyway.

Anonymous said...

Read the story! The market moves to the current museum, not the Castle!

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is - why did it take the Council so long to start the consultation after Full Council threw out the closure plans? It just seems like some officers are doing everything they can to close the Market. I've heard they're already telling stallholders they'll be out in two years. The council may say one thing but their staff are saying something quite different - again!

Vicky said...

I think it would be sad to see the museum shunted elsewhere but I could see some benefits to having the indoor market alongside the biweekly outdoor market...

As much as I like the indoor market, I've always been surprised by how many empty units there are. My home town - one lacking the historic prestige of Lancaster - has rebuilt their indoor market following a fire. It has a plethora of stalls and is always packed with visitors. The contrast has always shocked me...

John Freeman said...

The Council has voted to explore the idea of moving the market into the Lancaster City Museum, despite opposition from local groups. The Lancaster Guardian reported (18th February 2011 edition) that the Friends of Lancaster City Museum and Lancaster Civic Society wrote to raise concerns ahead of Lancaster City Council’s cabinet meeting.