Hopes new cen­tre will boost mar­ket

Rochdale Observer - - THREE ARRESTS IN DARK WEB DAWN RAIDS - Rochda­le­ob­[email protected]­media.co.uk @RochdaleNews

ROCHDALE’S trou­bled new mar­ket is ‘never go­ing to shake the earth’ or com­pete with neigh­bour­ing Bury, a Labour coun­cil­lor has ad­mit­ted.

After a string of de­lays the out­door mar­ket opened at its new lo­ca­tion on The Butts in time for Au­gust’s Feel­good Fes­ti­val.

And the town’s in­door venue – at the for­mer San­tander build­ing – fi­nally started trad­ing ear­lier this month.

But at the end of Septem­ber, the coun­cil sev­ered ties with Quar­ter­bridge – the op­er­a­tor it had ap­pointed to run the mar­ket – and will be over­see­ing op­er­a­tions to­gether with Rochdale De­vel­op­ment Agency (RDA) un­til at least April next year.

The prospects for both the in­door and out­door mar­ket were dis­cussed at a meet­ing of the coun­cil’s Com­mu­ni­ties, Re­gen­er­a­tion and En­vi­ron­ment Overview and Scru­tiny com­mit­tee.

Damian Cooke, op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor at RDA, told coun­cil­lors he be­lieved the £750,000 in­door mar­ket – which boasts a butcher, green­gro­cer, bak­ery and cafe – had been ‘turned around’ in time for the busy pre-Christ­mas trad­ing pe­riod.

But he added Quar­ter­bridge had seem­ingly done noth­ing in terms of im­prov­ing the out­door mar­ket, other than mov­ing the stalls from York­shire Street to The Butts.

“It’s not the great mar­ket we were hop­ing for,’ he ad­mit­ted.

But, more op­ti­misti­cally, Mr Cooke sug­gested the mar­ket would re­ceive a boost once the new River­side Shop­ping Cen­tre be­gins driv­ing foot­fall, and more homes are built in and around the town cen­tre.

Coun Peter Wil­liams agreed greater foot­fall would in­crease pass­ing trade, but warned ex­pec­ta­tions for the mar­ket should not be sky-high.

He said: ”It’s never go­ing to shake the earth it will prob­a­bly be lucky to com­pete with Mid­dle­ton’s lit­tle mar­ket. But get re­al­is­tic. Mar­kets are not the thing they used to be or the draw they used to be in the past – with the ex­cep­tion of Bury.”

And while ac­cept­ing that long-es­tab­lished Bury Mar­ket is a ‘mag­net’, he said there was a mis­un­der­stand­ing over what makes mar­kets tick.

“The idea peo­ple are trav­el­ling over in masses to just go to Bury Mar­ket is wrong. When will Rochdale be a bit more suc­cess­ful than it cur­rently is? It will be when that shop­ping cen­tre opens and you’ve got the peo­ple go­ing past.

“It is about foot­fall, peo­ple largely in­ci­den­tally pass­ing mar­ket stalls in places like Rochdale and places like Mid­dle­ton.”

Coun Wil­liams con­tin­ued: “For­tu­nately Mid­dle­ton is a bit more con­cen­tric and its hap­pen­ing at the mo­ment. At Rochdale it won’t hap­pen un­til you have that shop­ping cen­tre there and peo­ple are pass­ing and want to buy things and it be­comes a bit more at­trac­tive.”

Lib­eral demo­crat leader Andy Kelly was even more scathing about the mar­ket project – par­tic­u­larly the cur­rent out­door of­fer­ing.

He said: “Five units don’t make an in­door mar­ket, in my view, it’s four stalls and four food stalls, it’s not an in­door mar­ket.”

And on the out­door mar­ket he added: “I don’t think pop-up tents in the rain make a mar­ket of any sort, so there’s a broader ques­tion of how much money have we wasted on this ven­ture so far?

“This links into town cen­tre economies – these are fun­da­men­tal build­ing blocks. If we’re not get­ting these right, we’re not go­ing to get any of it right.”

But, speak­ing out­side of the meet­ing, Coun John Blun­dell – the author­ity’s re­gen­er­a­tion chief – said com­par­ing Rochdale Mar­kets with oth­ers in the area was point­less.

“Mar­kets are very dif­fer­ent and of­ten have to carve out their own niche,” he said.

He ad­mit­ted the part­ner­ship with Quar­ter­bridge had not worked out how ei­ther party would have wanted, but added: “We are not back to square one, things are mov­ing for­ward, but we are a cou­ple of steps be­hind where we want to be.”

And on the de­bate over what would drive the mar­ket’s im­prove­ment he said: “They way I look at it, it’s all go­ing to feed each other. There’s no sil­ver bul­let where if a cer­tain thing hap­pens it go­ing to be magic.

“It’s go­ing to be a con­tin­ual push from now un­til for­ever to get the town cen­tre how we want it. You have to keep re­new­ing and re­gen­er­at­ing the area.”

He also took a swipe at Coun Kelly, claim­ing that vot­ers knew what the Lib Dem leader was against, but not what he was for.

Quar­ter­bridge has been con­tacted for a com­ment.

●●Rochdale in­door mar­ket

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