BUSINESSES in Morpeth have given a cautious welcome to plans to revitalise the town’s markets.
The Herald reported earlier this month that Sanderson Arcade owner Dransfield Properties had signed a three-year deal with Northumberland County Council to run both the weekly Wednesday market and monthly Farmers’ Market.
Stallholders welcomed the move for offering fresh investment, promotional activities and improved facilities, including new uniform stalls and anchor points.
And now the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade has offered general approval of the plans, despite some concerns being raised.
Farmer Jimmy Bell, who sells his own lamb at the market, said: “Is the Markets Partnership still in operation because there has been virtually no consultation with traders about this and it is already done and dusted?
“I think it is a great idea, it’s marvellous and they should do it, but a little bit of consultation would have been nice.”
Markets Partnership Chairman and fellow chamber member Nic Best said there had been some discussion about the changes with traders around two years ago and their feedback had been taken on board, but the final deal was thrashed out between the council and Dransfield Properties. However, he said the partnership would be relaunched.
Coun Best admitted that new food stalls could be added to the market, which may compete with existing shops, but said business owners were welcome to take a stall themselves.
However, Paul Barker, who runs the Cube eatery and milkshake bar in Newgate Street, said: “If you look at some of the stalls on Wednesdays, they are undercutting people like ourselves who have shops and are offering food as cheaply as possible. We can’t compete and now you’re saying we should spend extra money to take a market stall.”
Coun Best said: “If we have more people coming into the town for the market then there are more people to go to the other shops and cafes.”
Chamber member John Beynon was pleased about the changes.
“In the last few years, a lot of traders have said that their quietest time is when the market is on, but over the last few years the market has been fairly rubbish,” he said.
“If we are going to have a market, and we have what I think is one of the oldest Market Charters in the country, let’s make it a great market.
“The new stalls are going to look fantastic with the More In Morpeth logo. I can understand what some people are saying about food stalls being competition, but if we can make it a great market and advertise it as one of the best markets in the area it can bring people in. We should all get behind it.”
The chamber heard that the location of anchor points will be decided this week and new stalls for the market had been ordered and will feature the More In Morpeth branding.
Andrew Watt, who runs Carlo’s Fish and Chip shop in Newmarket, suggested that local businesses should be able to sponsor stalls and have their logos on display.
And fellow member Les Sage said stallholders should be contracted to attend the market for a set number of days to ensure regular attendance.
Coun Best said both matters could be considered.
He added: “There is going to be a whole strategy that the market should be increasing the footfall in the town. The market will still be in the Market Place, there will be quality stalls and it should be good for the whole town.”