We all want the Market to succeed. We can only do this if we work in partnership with the traders. The market is often referred to as the “jewel in the crown”. It is something people in Northampton have been traditionally very proud off. However, our open market has been let down very badly by the Borough Council recently. We should remember Northampton is envied in many parts of the United Kingdom because of the size and central location of our Market in the town.
Our Market has been in the same position since 1235. Prior to that trading took place in the precincts of All Saints Church. The names of streets around the Town Centre bear testament to our Market history. When standing in the Market Square you are in a place where goods have been bought and sold for nearly 800 years. Very few other places in the Country can boast such a history.
Councillors regardless of what political party are just ships in the night of the history of our town. They have a public duty to look after the Market. It is part of our common heritage.
I know that over recent years shopping habits have changed. Internet shopping is increasing as are home deliveries from supermarkets. But these are challenges we need to rise to and not shrink from.
Some changes in recent years I have welcomed. Despite the cost I do think on balance the fountain is a good thing as it increases the attractiveness of the Square. Car Parking fees have been cut back and that also is a good thing. The traders have told us that the current parking fees are not working. The problem is that after two free hours’ shoppers face a big hike of £2.40. What they want is cheap parking instead of about a 30p an hour.
We have some good events on the Market Square like the Beech and St Crispin Street Fair. There is a discussion to be had in how to take this forward. Rents for Market Stalls have been frozen recently and again this is something I welcome.
Back in 2012 the Market Advisory Group was set up, with an independent Chair, to liaise between this Borough Council and the Market Traders. At first the Market Advisory Group seemed to be working. Your 2015 Manifesto said you wanted to involve the market traders in decision making.
The appearance of the gateways into the market needs to be improved. For instance, the paving slabs need to be replaced. Weeds need to be removed. What about a more attractive clock? It needs investment on there so the traders can flourish.
The proposed reconfiguration of the market layout is causing much controversy and anxiety with the traders. We should be working with them and not against them. They do not like this proposed layout and surely they are the experts in this.
We could experiment with Sunday markets, bank holiday markets and evening markets. We need festive markets that cater for different faiths. Also why can smaller towns in the county have successful farmer markets but we can’t do it here in Northampton? Evening Markets could prove successful. Home made products, Charity stalls and Arts & Crafts could be a feature. Old Boot & Shoe skills could be demonstrated, for example.
There should be an annual promotional Budget to promote on social media, traditional media and flyers. There needs to be more information online about stalls currently on the market. What is being sold?
Do we have a loyalty scheme for Traders? If not then we can introduce one? Regular Traders would receive a rent reduction of 1% for every 5 years they have stood on the Market, for example.
We could discuss with the job Centre and the local Chamber of Commerce how they can assist in finding new traders by presenting this as a job or business opportunity. We should introduce a ‘Become a Market Trader’ pack giving advice and relevant information on how to become a market trader.
Just some ideas. Let’s work with traders and have a strong Market.
Thank You Mayor.