Charter Market Consultation

23rd October 2014

The text below is the response from the BID Manager to Lancaster City Council with relation to Phase 2 of the consultation of the Charter Market:

 "I have spoken to a significant number of business owners who are located on the streets being impacted by the existing layout and the proposed modified layout, and am using their views to formulate my response below.

In your consultation document you lay out a list of seven fundamental questions which I would like to address individually:

1.    1.  The businesses that I spoke to were unanimous in their view that Lancaster City Council needs to actively manage and develop the market in a way that best compliments the other trading activities in the City

2.     2.  We can indeed start with a blank sheet of paper and maybe this is the most practical solution when it comes to managing some of the personalities who will be inevitably relocated.  An interim change would do little to satisfy the business owners but will certainly unsettle the market traders

3.    3.   Neither option is considered by many to be appropriate at this time

4.    4.   The question of whether foot-traffic would follow the market if it were relocated is actually a very important one.  There are a significant number of businesses who can demonstrate that their own customers are not coming into the city on market days due to the pedestrian congestion and associated difficulties caused by the market.  Equally, there is a large number of customers who are attracted into town to specifically shop at the market.  IF the market were to be relocated back to a pedestrianized Church Street, the market customers would automatically move with them as the market is their destination. The business owners recognise that this would bring increased footfall to a secondary shopping area of Lancaster. This would consequently leave the primary shopping space to function effectively without the disruption to trade that the market currently causes

5.    5.   I received only a few comments with regard to the food stalls and these mostly involved specialised clothing retailers' concerns over cooking food smells impregnating their stock, and a dissatisfaction with the hygiene of some of the existing food stalls

6.    6.   Improving the visual impression of the market will be key in enabling the city to promote the Charter Market as part of the diversity of Lancaster City.  One element of this can be achieved by offering the traders a specified choice of gazebos determined by the Council.  It may not be necessary to make all stalls identical as this can stifle some sense of creativity but a minimum standard certainly needs to be considered and enforced. It may be possible for the BID to assist with the cost of this, were a proposal to be made to this regard.  The current market layout also brings areas of congestion at all locations where stalls face each other across the street: pedestrian flow is currently impeded and emergency vehicle access is seriously reduced.  Thinning the market stalls to a single width may also reduce incidences of stalls setting up too close to shops and businesses.

7.    7.  Again, the unanimous view of the business owners that I spoke to, was that the current pitch price is insulting to them.  Business owners pay a large amount of money to the Council in the form of Business Rates and refuse collection charges, as well as private rent and utility bills for their premises; yet for two days in every seven (which represents almost one third of their trading week) it is possible for an individual to trade in identical produce for no more than £40-60 per week, to impede that business' opportunity to trade AND to have the market refuse removed at no additional cost. Bringing in higher and tiered pitch charges would serve three important goals

  1. It would recognise that some pitches generate a higher income opportunity than others, in the same way as business rates are calculated on primary, secondary and tertiary areas
  2. It would prevent some of the cheaper, less attractive stalls from wanting to trade thereby increasing the quality of the items on offer to the customers
  3. It would attract some of the higher end crafts and goods into the market, who are currently put-off by the chaotic element of the existing format
In addition to your items, I would like to highlight two other issues that I came across:

  • The attitudes of some of the market traders to local business owners is sometimes one of extreme rudeness and aggression. This relationship is now seriously flawed and is leading to an increasing rift between two very important revenue-generators of the city.
  •   Market Square has been beautifully restored and the performance space will become a very important part of the future draw for Lancaster.  The recent Music Festival was a great opportunity to showcase the facility BUT was hindered by market stalls congesting the audience space around it.  It must be noted that the square can serve one use or another but cannot provide a dual-use space.  It is the intention of the Lancaster BID to book a number of performances throughout 2015 to help to build the daytime atmosphere in town (including Saturdays) but this will not be practical or possible when the market is trading.  Anybody trading for a living would resent being relocated for temporary events, so I would suggest that a blanket ban on stalls in the Market Square would be easier to enforce.

5    To summarise, the business owners feel that there is definitely a need for the market to exist in an improved format for Lancaster and that the two options offered in the consultation documents are not far-reaching enough to affect that improvement.  The BID would like to propose that the Council continues to develop this consultation process and wonders if the Council would consider creating a working group specifically to generate an action plan for the future.  If this were to be the case, the BID would be happy to contribute and will volunteer to take part in the process."

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