Town market could close

West End Indoor Market manager Joanne Harrison and trader Kevin Isted.

West End Indoor Market manager Joanne Harrison and trader Kevin Isted.

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A bidding war may force the West End indoor market to close its doors after only a year in business.

Traders are devastated that the popular market could shut after the manager was outbid for the lease by an un-named charity.

Joanne Harrison, market manager, said: “I know business is business but we’ve worked bloody hard for this.

“It feels like I’ve had my guts pulled out.”

If the market closes, stallholders would be turfed out and claim they would struggle to find new premises.

“Just as we’re starting to pick up we’re going to shut, and it’s absolutely choking,” said Kevin Isted, who runs a traditional sweet stall in the market.

“I have regular customers who have started to get to know me as the sweet man. Now I might have to start again.”

The market opened in September 2011 after Mrs Harrison took out an agreement with the leaseholder, a businessman from Brighton.

But the lease remained up for sale and she claims a charity has offered to take it for 10 years, which she can’t match.

“The traders have agreed to stand by us and agreed to a small increase in rent so we could improve our offer but now I’ve been told (the charity) has increased their offer,” said Mrs Harrison.

“If I could commit to 10 years then I would.

“It’s more upsetting because if they wanted it, why didn’t they take it 18 months ago when it was empty?

“It’s not right. I just feel sick.”

Clive Fishwick, chair of the West End traders, said: “Joanne has 20 traders in there doing reasonably well and that could all come crashing down, and we would end up with no indoor market in the West End.

“None of (the traders) would be able to set up in a shop with the overheads. It’s cheaper to run a market stall.”

The market is on the ground floor of the 111-year-old Alhambra building on Marine Road West, owned by the O’Brien family of Morecambe. The entire building is currently up for sale.

Mrs Harrison said she had been offered the chance to move the market into the empty Carleton nightclub upstairs but is worried having to climb stairs could put customers off.

The Visitor approached the charity named by Mrs Harrison but they denied any knowledge of the situation.

The market will host a family fun weekend WEM 2012 in aid of Help for Heroes and Combat Stress from September 21-23. For more details see next week’s Visitor.