Hopes new centre will boost market
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