TRADING has been ruled out from a key area of Morpeth Town Hall.
Members of Morpeth Town Council were asked to consider a request to allow sales from the building’s Butter Market as part of free art exhibitions at the venue.
But councillors heard that as the area serves as the main reception for both the council and Northumberland Registration Services it would be inappropriate to use it as a trading space, while there were concerns about increasing competition for local businesses.
However, some trading will be allowed for special annual events, such as when the Town Hall is booked out in its entirety.
Council Clerk Gillian Turner said: “At the moment our policy says the Butter Market can be hired for exhibition space only and we said that people can’t sell any artwork.
“We have had a question from someone asking why they are not allowed to sell pieces, but our response would be that they could hire the Corn Exchange, as other people do, for that.
“The Butter Market is the reception area and if someone wants to display something there that is fine, but we don’t want someone coming week after week selling goods, especially things that a shop in Morpeth could be selling.
“One-off annual sales for special events is fine, but not on a regular commercial basis.”
Deputy Clerk Angela Logan added: “The Butter Market is used for a reception area for people coming to register births and deaths, or talk to the council.
“The whole point of it is a reception area and we don’t want people selling things there.”
Members of the council’s Property and Asset Management Committee agreed with the officers’ reports, but said the issue may be reviewed next year.
Coun Andrew Tebbutt said: “We have only very recently established this policy. Perhaps we can do a review at this time next year, at which point we can look at this issue and if we recognise that there is a need for different uses of the Butter Market we can look at it, but I think we should make sure that what we have inherited and developed has had time to settle down first.”
Coun Ken Brown agreed.
“We have got to review it at some point, but I think when we were formulating that policy we specified we were looking for it to be an exhibition area and a greeting area,” he said.
Morpeth Mayor Phil Taylor said he had been asked why the Butter Market could not be used for refreshments when people book the Corn Exchange, but was told it would be impractical when events such as weddings are taking place elsewhere in the building.
Ms Turner said: “We can’t have tea and coffee in the Butter Market when people are coming in in wedding dresses.”