Friday, 16 September 2011

Council delays decision on Lancaster Market's future

(Updated 19th September 2011): Councillors have decided to defer a decision on the future of Lancaster Market after council staff told councillors some traders could not be persuaded to go along with the proposal to move them all to the ground floor of the building.

The future of the Market was discussed at Full Council on Wednesday, and considered recommendations made by the council’s Cabinet back in July, which were referred to Full Council because of the costs associated with the potential move of tennants to the ground floor.

At the meeting, a new report stated that some traders were not willing to move from the first floor to the ground floor or to relocate within the ground floor - which was one of the key money-saving proposals Council was asked to consider.

"It would only be possible to achieve a move to the ground floor if the court action results in a break clause being included in the new leases," a report prepared by council officers, prepared just 24 hours before the Full Council meeting, noted. "However, it is by no means certain that the court will incorporate a break clause into the new lease, and even if it does, there will be a considerable delay in being able to implement such a clause in order to enforce a move to the ground floor.

"It will not be possible therefore to undertake any move with some urgency, if at all."

After a lengthy debate, councillors requested further clarification on the options available to them and agreed to defer consideration of the recommendations until the next meeting of Full Council on Wednesday 16th November.

Sadly, it would appear that this further delay brings into question the ongoing viability of the market as a whole. "Some traders could leave during this period due to the continuing
uncertainty as to the future of the market which in itself has an effect on the level of
footfall and trade," the report suggests. "This would mean that the actual decision on any capital investment would need to be reconsidered at the time of the outcome of the court
proceedings, taking account of the market’s trading position at that time."

"The future of Lancaster's indoor market and the large costs involved are major issues for Lancaster City Council," explained Coun Eileen Blamire, Leader of Lancaster City Council, "and councillors want to make sure they have all the information available to take this decision."

Update, 19th September: Peter Corke, Chairman of Lancaster Market Tenants Association has contacted us to say that all the traders on the upper floor wish to move to the ground floor of the Market, contrary to the report presented to Council. "I think some council officers have another agenda that would suit them better if the market were to close," he says, adding that the council officers costings for the proposed move are also astounding.

"It would cost nowhere near £271,000 to relocate seven businesses to the ground floor," he states.

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