Wrexham’s Town Centre Forum was told this morning of a joining of forces between the Council and market traders following a meeting last night over the proposed Arts Hub.
Over recent months the subject of converting the Peoples Market on Chester Street into an Arts and Cultural Hub has been a regular subject of debate – with confusion over where market traders will fit into the development and also anger over the potential loss or partial loss of one of Wrexham’s indoor markets, with no firm details yet to surface.
As Wrexham.com readers will know last month’s Town Centre Forum Meeting saw a heated debate between Chairman of the meeting, Nigel Lewis and representatives from Wrexham Council. The meeting heard the Oriel Wrecsam blasted for predetermining the outcome of the future of the Arts and Cultural Hub and the Peoples Market with criticism over communication to traders.
This month’s meeting however saw something of a u-turn on the subject of the Arts and Cultural Hub, with members told that a meeting had taken place last night with Leader Member for Communities and Partnerships, Cllr Hugh Jones, Chairman of the Town Centre Forum, Nigel Lewis and traders from the Peoples Market.
The Town Centre Forum was told that going forward with plans for the development of the Peoples Market, traders had agreed to work in partnership and engage with the Council during the process after ‘assurances’ and ‘clarifications’ were given.
Speaking at this morning’s Town Centre Forum Meeting, Mr Lewis said: “The point I wanted to pick up on is how the proposals for development would impact market traders and the wider market issue within Wrexham. With the consultation and consultants being engaged, what’s developed here is a chicken and egg situation. You may have seen the press with real concerns from traders on how they may feature in the market.
“It is a delicate situation. On one hand until the consultation, design and business case and people have had chance to engage, it is difficult for anyone to say what will happen. From the trader’s perspective, I do sense unclarity which I think could be made clearer . I’ve spoken to the Oriel Gallery, Cllr Hugh Jones and every market trader to try and get peoples views.
“First and foremost the traders and wider business community do not feel the Peoples Market has run its course and feeling is with some tweaks and changes it could be vibrant again. People recognise things do need to change.
“The issues from the Peoples Market is it is their livelihoods are at stake. They have been invited to participate, but when you’ve ran a business for 30 years and someone asks what you’d like to see there, it is difficult to offer positive comments.
“I’ve had clarification from Cllr Jones – what is absolutely clear is a market is a vital part to the centre in addition to lock up places. We cannot say the size or number of units – this is being looked at.”
Speaking today, Wrexham Town Centre Manager Isobel Garner reassured members of the Town Centre Forum that no final decision had taken place, stating: “It’s very much a work in progress. Architects are coming up with concepts about what could happen. This has to work alongside the business case which is being prepared. It needs to show the hub can be sustainable. If it’s not, it can’t take place.”
However concern of the loss of Wrexham’s largest indoor market was raised by some members of the forum – with one market trader present saying: “There is great concern to all market traders. In your letter Cllr Jones does not say what those spaces will be size wise, what they will be as far they can be selling. They haven’t said if we can retain our spaces or if pop up stalls are going to take up a large amount of space.”
After the meeting the Forum Chairman Nigel Lewis sent Wrexham.com and unsolicited copy, perhaps reflecting the sensitivity of the project as proposals near completion, of Lead Member for Communities and Partnerships, Cllr Hugh Jones’s recent thoughts.
We are told Cllr Jones said: “What is absolutely clear is that a market is a vital part of the centre, in addition lock up spaces will be included. At this stage what I cannot say is the size and number of each of the units but it is currently being looked as part of the designers response to the consultation”
“Can I reiterate if this project goes ahead it is an absolute given that it will have Market Traders and to this end we need the current Trader to partner with us. We have provided every opportunity for them to engage with us and we will continue to do so “
Mr Lewis said: “This commitment has cleared up much confusion with Peoples Market Traders who are now all willing to play their part as active partners in the whole consultation process. I would confirm that the views expressed by the trader present today where his own personal views and he was not acting on or behalf of all of the Market Traders.”
Wrexham.com understands there was a meeting of market traders yesterday that saw assurances given to the traders from the Council to nullify concerns enough to ‘work together and move forward’.
One person familiar with the meeting told us: “It was decided to go with the Council rather than fight. All we want to do is to carry on trading and earn a living. We cannot disappear for 12 months, they will need to work around us. This was the opinion of the traders and now is not the time to kick and scream but to look to work together.”
Traders are now looking forward to the first formal plans being unveiled in the coming weeks, which will be the ‘proof in the pudding’ of if the new partnership’s results will satisfy the concerns aired and match assurances given and implied last night.
A consultation event detailing how the Arts and Cultural Hub could look is also available for public viewing in the South Arcade of the Peoples Market until Saturday.
There is still time to have your say on the proposed Arts and Cultural Hub in Wrexham. If you haven’t filled it in already, the consultation is live on the Your Voice Wrexham website now.