01895 639912 No. 4956

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Changes in store for historic market The general market at Newcastle-under-Lyme

Fewer stalls, fewer trading days and incentives for new stallholders are just some of the changes being proposed to revive a declining Staffordshire market, local media has reported. Newcastle-under-Lyme’s

centuries-old market was all set to be taken over last year by operator Market Place Management Ltd, but despite considerable efforts to secure a mutually acceptable agree- ment with Newcastle Borough Council, the deal fell through. Now a council report says

the High Street market has “declined over a number of years” and is “not currently fulfilling its economic role and potential”. The report states that empty stalls now dominate the southern end of the market, and also suggests that it is too spread out and needs to be concentrated to create a “vibrant space”.

Options being considered for Newcastle Market include: • Reducing the number of fixed market stalls to create a smaller market site and remove the visual impact of empty stalls;

• Concentrating the market more around the Guildhall by relocating some stalls to this higher footfall area;

• Reducing the number of market trading days to concentrate activity.

ISSN 2057–6781 The market currently

operates six days a week, with a general market on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, an antiques market on Tuesdays and a flea market on Thursdays. Newcastle Borough Council cabinet members were told at a recent meeting that the development of a market improvement programme was the recommended course of action if the market was to survive.

The cabinet report stated:

“The council has the option to continue to manage the market as it does now, but it is apparent that the current mode of operation for the market has been unable to stabilise or improve its performance. In the longer term, then, continuing to run the market on the current basis would not be the recommended option. “Taking action to implement changes to the management and operation of the market... enables the council to respond to the results of the review and consultation on the operation of the market that has been undertaken in recent months.” The report also recognises a need to attract new traders, particularly those selling goods not already available at other stalls, in order to diversify the market offer. This could be achieved

through incentives aimed at encouraging people to try their hand at trading, as well as regular “event style” markets.

Increased support for existing traders was also suggested, which could include initiatives such as cashless forms of payment, updated market regulations and training schemes. Following the collapse of the deal with Market Place Management the council undertook a consultation in a bid to identify why members of the public were not using the market.

Most respondents agreed that the stalls were currently too spread out, although only 42 percent said they would be more likely to visit the town centre if there were fewer market trading days. A large majority backed the idea of themed markets, with food, craft and continental markets being the most popular options.

In addition to the consultation, the National Association of British Market Authorities carried out a review, which involved interviews with current traders. Speaking to local media, the traders themselves have given their views on what improvements they think could be helpful. Antiques dealer Jane Green said: “When they asked us about moving the stalls towards the Guildhall we said it was not feasible. We can’t get the vehicles up there to load and unload and the shops are having their deliveries in a morning. “We’re happy with the layout as it is.

“The Monday or Wednesday market could go because there are hardly any stalls and it’s embarrassing for the town when they are advertising a market six days a week. “What is needed some specialist markets. Sunday would be a fantastic day to do that, things like a record fair or a sci-fi event, or a proper farmers’ market like Rode Hall or Stone. “This is a cracking market, the facilities are here and the shops are behind us. The council needs to get someone to look at other town centres that are making things work.” Iona Robertson runs her vintage stall in Newcastle every Tuesday, but doesn’t believe that making the market smaller is the answer to its problems

“I think if the number of stalls was reduced it could be the final nail in the coffin for the market,” she warned. “The council needs to do more to promote it to get more stallholders in, perhaps by offering some incentives. If you reduce the stalls you are just making less of a market and people won’t come. “People need to use the market or lose it.” Fellow stallholder Tony

Enderby has run a record stall on the market for more than 30 years, and like many who took part in the council’s consultation, he believes holding more ‘special’ events there would help to draw people in.

He said: “I don’t think the traders further down would

like being moved into a smaller space.

“The general market has gone into decline really, it’s much better on a Tuesday and a Thursday. It used to be a thriving market and as the years have gone by it has been neglected.

“They had a record fair on the bank holiday, which was good. Holding more things like that may help.”

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