Morecambe market should be used for festivals, says tourism boss

Darren Clifford, chairman of Morecambe Town Council at the site of the former Dome in Morecambe
Darren Clifford, chairman of Morecambe Town Council at the site of the former Dome in Morecambe
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A leading light for tourism wants to see the Festival Market used as an entertainments venue once again.

Coun Darren Clifford, Lancaster City Council’s new cabinet member for tourism, said he believes Morecambe’s indoor market should “always have been a festivals site”.

“It doesn’t have festivals in it and it’s not really a market,” said Coun Clifford, speaking exclusively to The Visitor.

“Morecambe needs a big indoor entertainments venue that offers different things.”

The market was used for concerts in the past, most notably the annual Morecambe punk festival.

But it has not hosted large-scale events since 2002, when the council bowed to pressure from traders who were angry at being forced out during peak times. Punk festival organisers, who needed a 3,000 capacity venue, then moved the event to Blackpool.

In 2012 Lancaster City Council, owners of the Festival Market, assured traders its long-term future was secure. The market is expected to make a £61,000 profit in 2015/16.

During the interview, which covered a range of topics, Coun Clifford also hit out at the owners of Heysham Power Stations for “mickey-taking” over business rates.

EDF Energy has appealed for a business rates refund from the council because they were charged during a maintenance shutdown, known as an outage, in 2014.

Coun Clifford said: “It’s absolutely killing us. We wouldn’t accept that from any other business. That’s a mickey-taker. It’s like any shop saying I don’t want to pay business rates because I’m closed.”

He also commented on plans by NewRiver Retail, new owners of the Arndale Centre, to work with designer Wayne Hemingway on a radical makeover of the shopping centre.

“They’re going to have to put something in there that’s worth going to,” he said. “I’ll reserve judgement until I see the colour of their money.”

Coun Clifford, who also recently became chairman of Morecambe Town Council, praised other new developments including the town’s “first million pound pub” the Morecambe Hotel and the Winter Gardens’ new Parisian Bar which he said was “a statement of intent”.

He said: “Morecambe is very much about tourism but you can’t be reliant on the tourist economy,” he said. “It’s about the jobs you provide. We need to skill our workforce so when the link road gets built, our people will get jobs.”

Coun Clifford, 44, was one of only two Morecambe councillors, alongside fellow Labour member Janice Hanson, to win seats on Morecambe Town, Lancaster City and Lancashire County councils at the May elections.

He said his future plans include making the town “the festivals capital of the North West” and to be “a walking, talking, living advert for Morecambe”.