Lancaster Market to close

LANCASTER indoor market will close after politicians voted to negotiate a buy out from the lease.

The decision was made at a Lancaster City Council meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The market is projected to lose £642,000 in 2011/12.

Closure of the market could cost the taxpayer up to £20million although a council report claims remaining in the lease could cost around £64million.

Councillors agreed to cut their losses after all political parties supported a motion to enter buyout talks with owners Allied (Lancaster) Ltd and look to relocate and compensate traders.

Coun Jon Barry said: “This is an incredibly sad day.

“I’ve fought hard for the market. But reluctantly, it’s in the best interests of the council to negotiate a buy out.”

Coun Eileen Blamire, council leader, gave her personal assurance that traders would be treated fairly.

“We need to stop the uncertainty and stop the slow death and increasing costs,” said Coun Blamire.

Coun Chris Coates called it “a bad day for this council”.

“It seems totally appropriate and ironic that the entire development is called Market-gate,” said Coun Coates.

“It would be easy to lay blame. People have tried their best. I would like to say sorry to the market traders.”

But Coun Abbott Bryning said: “It wasn’t the purpose of this council to run a market at a loss.

“Retailing has changed in Lancaster. You can’t go on forever compensating some traders at the expense of the rest of the community.

“We can’t go on being blamed. We spent a lot of money helping traders after the old market burned down. There were tremendous extra costs.

“The council did its level best to restore the market in what seemed to be sufficient retail conditions at the time. It’s not all the council’s fault.”

Coun Ceri Mumford disagreed with Coun Bryning’s statement.

“In my opinion the outdoor market has thrived because of the demise of the indoor market,” said Coun Mumford.

“There have been series of disastrous business decisions. It’s a travesty.”

Most of the remaining market traders have leases until 2015.

Sarah Halkyard, who runs a bag shop in the market, said: “As long as they are fair to us then we will go. But I’m not struggling. My business is doing well. I don’t want to move.”

Peter Corke, chairman of the Market Traders Association, said: “I’m gutted. But we knew it was coming. “We now just want (compensation) for what the businesses are worth.

“I don’t agree with Abbott Bryning. It’s all down to the council.”

See this week’s Lancaster Guardian for more on this story.