Agenda item


Members gave consideration to a report which sought to re-introduce rental charges for traders onto Gainsborough Market.


The report also sought to update Members on performance with the Marshall’s Yard contract and ongoing work for the long-term strategy for the Market.


Part 1 of the report considered the reintroduction of rental charges for traders on Gainsborough Market from 1 April 2021. The report identified options and took into consideration the position on other local markets and the lack of evidence that charging would act as a barrier to traders attending, and as such, recommended that rental charges for stalls should be re-introduced.


Part 2 of the report updated on performance with the two year contract currently in place with Marshall’s Yard. Marshall’s Yard currently provided promotional and marketing support for the General Market, was responsible for organising and promoting the monthly Farmers Market, as well as delivering two annual events in the Town Centre.


Whilst the Farmers Market and events had been successfully delivered wherever possible within restrictions, it had not resulted in any growth of the General Market and it was difficult to identify what impact the Covid crisis had had on attendance.


Finally, part 3 identified the work which Officers had been undertaken regarding the long term future of the Market. Officers were in the final stages of procurement of a consultant to produce a headline report for Members to consider in the spring. This future report would give an assessment of the current position with the Market, linked to regeneration work in the town centre, as well as give an options analysis for future delivery of the function.


Prior to opening the matter for debate Members were reminded that the meeting would need to move to “closed session” should Members wish to discuss in detail the contents of the appendix.


Debate ensued and Opposition Members suggested that a much broader approach and wider thinking around the Markets was required, this should be seen in the context of supporting the wider town centre through what had been and would continue to be a difficult period.


Some expressed disappointment with the recommendations, and were of the view that the position had not changed in recent years.  In signing the contract with Marshall’s Yard there had been a belief a positive impact would been seen on the wider town centre.  Whilst accepting it had been a difficult year, the results of the contract were disappointing.


It was considered that there was a real need for new creative initiatives and to address the wider issues, such as how to increase footfall to support the wider town.  Examples of initiatives Members felt should be further investigated and aspired to, including a travelling farmers market, were shared. With the continued uncertainty around the end date of national restrictions, some considered it far too early to be re-introducing charges. Traders, if they were to attend, needed to have the opportunity to take an income and at present they simply didn’t, disputing that all markets were in decline.


In responding, Officers acknowledged that this had been an unprecedented year with much of the focus being on maintaining and delivering front line services.  Members were reminded the two year contract had been put in place to allow time to develop the wider strategic work referenced by Councillors.  It was acknowledged that had been delay however, the Council had engaged the services of an experienced consultant.  The Council had worked hard to ensure the scope for the review was appropriate and included how the Council may deliver markets in other towns and large villages across the District. It was anticipated these wider proposal would be brought before Committee in the spring with a view to delivery commencing once approved and on expiry of the current contract.


Members urged that the service needed to be financed and resourced appropriately and did not consider this had been the case historically. 


The need to support the wider town centre and the market was shared across the Chamber, however it was disputed whether simply not charging rent would be part of the solution, particularly if resources were to be invested.  Rental charges appeared to have little impact on the number of traders attending.


Members acknowledged the additional marketing work which had taken place, but referring to early comments, some suggested whether different mediums now needed to be re-introduced.


Officers acknowledged that a number of initiatives aimed at supporting the markets had been developed over the years with limited success. Historically the market had been seen as a “cost centre” with little recognition of the wider benefits a thriving market could bring to a town.  Officers accepted a much more holistic approach with less focus on the market being a commercial entity was required, and that had been the brief provided to the consultant. Members were advised that this wider work, with this revised ethos, was anticipated to be presented to Members in the spring.


Having heard of the planned future work there was still considerable unease at re-introducing charges from 1 April. Some members were of the view that the traders had been amongst some of those most severely effected and therefore rents should remain free until at least the end of lock down and maybe beyond.


It was also suggested that the Markets for some years had had no clear direction, making policy development difficult. The effectiveness of the marketing was again questioned, with examples being cited as to where this could have been improved and garnered a wider audience. The value for money on the contract was questioned.


Whilst Members were supportive of the planned future work and the intimated change in approach to financing of the market, the general consensus across the Committee was that it was not the right time to re-introduce charges. 


Members made reference to the historical decisions taken and the negative impact these had had on the market place.  The removal of parking from the town centre was considered to have been significantly detrimental and there were calls for this position to be re-instated.


Some suggested that charges should be revisited in 3 months.  There were also proposals to reconsider the matter in June and with a view to rents being re-introduced at some point after that.


Given the opposing views across the Chamber, and with little evidence to suggest the recommendation in respect of the re-introduction of fees would be supported, it was proposed that the debate around this aspect of the report be adjourned (procedure rule 11k) until the Committee next met in March. 


Officers highlighted that a deferral until March would mean charges could not be brought in any sooner than June.  Should the charge also not be agreed this evening, this would need to be reflected in the base budgets earlier recommended by the Committee.


On that basis, and having had a proposal that the debate in respect of the fee be deferred, seconded, it was


RESOLVED  that: -


(a)         the ongoing work outlined in Part 3 of the report be noted and welcomed; and


(b)         the debate in respect of the decision as to whether to re-introduce rental charges for traders be deferred until the Committee’s next meeting on 16 March 2021.



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