Market future fear

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Traders at a resort market fear for the future after more than 10 were given notice to quit.

The resort’s Festival Market on Marine Road Central is just the latest in the area to encounter

difficulties.

Lancaster Market closed altogether and the West End Market is under threat.

The council issued the notices to Festival Market traders due to issues with rent arrears.

But one Festival Market trader told the Visitor: “It looks like they are strategically trying to close it.”

Lancaster City Council cabinet is due to meet next Tuesday (October 9) to discuss the market’s future.

A councillor said the meeting was “totally unconnected” to the rent issues.

Traders said a washout summer has affected the takings for many and caused arrears to stack up.

They also blamed the council, owners of the market, for changing payment methods for stall holders. Instead of handing over the rent at the market,

traders now have to pay at the Post Office, which had caused problems for some who found it difficult to get away from their stalls.

Daily charges for traders range between £17.25 and £22.25 per day for shops and between £14 and £22 per day for stalls.

“A lot of us are trying desperately to pay our arrears and it is such a shame,” said a trader.

“The council should be behind us.”

The council defended its new ‘get tough’ policy on arrears as a “last resort”, saying the public purse cannot continue to cover losses suffered by private businesses.

A council report, which gives options for the market’s future, said the changes were about “improving safety for staff, reducing handling charges and making sure the process was fully auditable.

“The council has in place a clear policy for the management of debtors.

“This policy had not been fully applied and the situation worsened.”

The report also says: “It is clear the market is valued and well used.

“Traders generally feel the location of the market is good but needs to be better connected to the centre of Morecambe.

“To ensure all avenues are explored, consideration could be given to whether locating the market elsewhere, in Morecambe, would address some of the issues.”

But, says the report, there is no guarantee the council could afford to move the market.

Councillor Jon Barry, cabinet member for markets, said: “The cabinet report and the rent arrears issue are totally unconnected.

“My understanding is that the majority of the tenants in arrears have either paid or are intending to pay off the arrears.

“I am keen not to lose good tenants from the market so long as they are making good inroads into their arrears.

“The report intends to seek a view on future options for the market to ensure it is sustainable in the long and medium terms. We will be looking at issues such as coach parking, marketing and the temperature of the building.”

Last month, Lancaster Market was shut by the council due to financial problems, while the privately-owned West End indoor market is in the middle of a lease wrangle.

The Visitor is running a campaign to support small traders like those at the Festival Market and other shopkeepers in the town. See pages 5, 8, 10 and 11 for more on #SOSMorecambe - Support Our Shops.