A £3m improvement plan that proposes significant changes to Wrexham’s three indoor markets is due to go before Councillors next week.
Earlier this week we reported on a planning application to improve the town’s markets, today we look at a report published yesterday on a £3m improvement plan.
The report (PDF here on the Council’s website) contains findings by consultants Quarterbridge Project Management Ltd. Quaterbridge describe themselves as ‘specialist design and business planning advice for market owners, operators, traders and developers’.
Within the report there are a number of suggestions for Wrexham markets, however the main options have been summarised as the three below:
- Reduce the market operation in the People’s Market and introduce a cultural and arts based operation into the vacant space at an estimated capital cost of £1.4m
- Retain the Butchers’ Market as a market and make capital investment of £890k
- Refocus the General Market to provide restaurants and bars with a capital investment of £729k, creating a venue for the day time economy as well as further developing the evening economy.
The first option is no surprise to readers of Wrexham.com, with the move of the Oriel to the Peoples Market being on the cards for a while. We are told the latter option to change the General Market to a cafe/bar/restaurant style venue is one that is not likely to get the green light as it is not thought to be fitting to the area.
One unresolved problem is the funding of any works, with the report giving a worked example of a possible loan. The report does state that if money is loaned then repayments would have to be made regardless of market occupancy. Various models are explained at the bottom of the report ranging from a 20 year loans to no loans at all. The total top investment recommended for the General Market is £730,000 plus £900,000 for the Butchers Market, with the lowest expenditure option being mentioned being £0.
Due to the change of use proposal for the Peoples Market to an arts and cultural centre one option mentioned is a spend of £3,000,000 with Arts Council funding possibly being used.
One market trader we spoke to was quite positive on the use of external consultants saying , “There is a lot of good stuff in the report, some does not fit Wrexham at all, but there are some good ideas”
They welcomed the Council’s activity saying, “The new management have been very proactive, and it should not be a case of looking back at what should have been done ten or twenty years ago, we need to be looking forward and it is great to see that the Council are looking to improve things further”.
One further trader we spoke to, who was in favour of the report as a whole, was concerned that any funding could be made back by rising costs such as rent which would then negate any benefits they would find.
Benefits of the recent push to improve the markets are indicated in the report with occupancy rates in the Butchers and General market said to be 96%.
It does appear that some Council rules have blocked areas of progress, with what appears to be a standalone website for the markets blocked with the reason stated as “Individual website not permitted under WCBC IT rules and regulations”, however a dedicated page on Wrexham.gov.uk is to be set up.
With most consultants reports we have found them interlinked and presented online, however in this case it is not with the reasoning given as “It must be noted that for reasons of data protection and copyright, the full report has not been shared.”
Councillors will hopefully debate the report and the suggestions contained within to form a preferred future strategic direction for the markets and enabling the financing to make it happen.
A Scrutiny Committee will meet on Wednesday in the Guildhall to discuss the report. The meeting is open to the public, so why not pop along!
(As always, Wrexham.com would encourage readers to go and have a look in our markets if you have not already.)