January 17, 2012 harborough mail by David Johnson in response to Indoor market pushed outdoors in controversial move
IT is good to see that some sense has prevailed with Harborough District Council’s proposal to remain in its present building.
However, the sale or letting out of the market hall to pay for its overall property plan is lunatic.
The value of the market hall and its traders to the town far exceeds the paltry profit the council gets from its rents.
In terms of the local economy its independent traders provide a variety of small businesses, an important part of the sort of shopping experience for which Market Harborough is well known.
It also makes a significant contribution to the local economy through visitor spending in the local shops, eateries, pubs and hotels; the town is much busier on market days, and its friendly café is a meeting place for all and sundry.
For comparison the museum’s annual impact on the local economy is calculated to be worth £690,000. To sell or lease the market hall to an influential retail brand simply to profit the council could alter the balance between independent shops and national chains for the worse.
In others words the market hall is a priceless asset. Once sold it is no longer an asset, and Harborough will be in danger of losing its regular market after some 800 years.
I do not think that providing alternative accommodation for the indoor market, either on the ground floor of the council building or in a redeveloped Fox Yard, will appeal to the traders or the public.
This car park site is hidden away outside the main commercial area and bus routes, and the conditions can only be a shabby compromise compared to the market hall which was purpose-built less than 20 years ago.
It is not enough to see these plans only in financial terms. What is required here is some inspired vision for the future of Market Harborough.
Town centres across the country are in decline. Despite relative prosperity, some Harborough shops, even in St Mary’s Place, are in a precarious state. Mary Portas has in her report made suggestions for their reinvigoration, and has supported the revival of town markets.
There has so far been no proper public consultation. The petition opposing the closure or moving of the indoor market has received 9,166 signatures, but the council said it was premature, and has treated it with total disdain.
So I ask – why should the town suffer when the council has over the years allowed its principal building to fall into such disrepair?
What do the remaining residents of Market Harborough think about these plans? This is your town, and you must tell the council what you think or want, either by lobbying your local councillor, emailing Harborough District Council or writing to the press. The voice of the people must be heard.
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