Councillors have examined the progress of an improvement plan for the town’s markets, with recognition of some successes and the ongoing work ahead.
Progress on the “Strategic Asset Management Plan 2016-21 (SAMP) for the General and Butchers Markets was presented as part of an annual update to members of the council’s employment, business and investment scrutiny committee yesterday.
Cllr Terry Evans, lead member for economic development regeneration presented the report, saying the installation of wifi in the two indoor markets was an ‘important development’ to allow existing traders to capitalise on social media and promote their own products.
The bill for such wifi is noted in the committee’s report as costing £28,607.
Cllr Marc Jones, who noted the two markets were in his ward, said he had spoken with traders regarding the new wifi system and that he had been told it was ‘intermittent’ and ‘not reliable’, referring to the ‘huge cost’ of the system stated in the documents before the committee.
The business investment lead officer pointed to earlier comments by Cllr Evans on why the wifi installation was seen as a priority, and read a technical statement from the council’s IT department that had advised on the installation.
The standalone system was described as being pricey due to the spec being one centered around ‘capacity, compliance, filtering and control’. The installation is in Grade II listed buildings which increased the figures, and needed sufficient power to cover the areas.
Raising a smile from a couple of the committee members with Cllr Jones’ comments fresh in their ears, the system was described as ensuring ‘consistent performance’.
There is a cloud hosted controller, and will allow lots of simultaneous users, and the entire system is ‘future proofed’.
After the meeting ended at 5:30pm we went to a then empty Tŷ Pawb, and asked about the wifi status, and was told the trader network is accessible but ‘terrible’ however the public wifi is better.
Responding to the specific issues mentioned, the town centre manager told the meeting that the issues recently lay with BT rather than the council. Bringing fresh information to the table she informed the meeting that traders in the two indoor markets were given logins Tuesday morning and no issues had been reported, however there are issues with the public wifi.
The thrust of the wifi installation was described as being based around a ‘bigger drive to experiences’, with the hope that people will ‘dwell’ in the markets and use social media to tell everyone they know about their great time and therefore promote the markets.
Cllr Geoff Lowe welcomed the work, and noted with wifi people will be able to order items or services online, and then visit the markets to pick things up and hopefully other items as well.
Later in the meeting it emerged that the £28k wifi cost as listed in the figures for the Butchers and General markets was a part-cost of an overall bill, as it was part of the Tŷ Pawb installation. Cllr Davies asked for the total cost, however the figures were not to hand, but it was described as ‘being split across the three’.
CCTV is on the markets plan for 2021, with councillors asking why such a factor had not been sorted along with the wifi system. The town centre has a recent CCTV upgrade along with a wifi roll out – but the meeting was told the new install is not connected to that system, and it would be a separate procurement.
Marketing figures were discussed, with the £5k budget last year being increased to £10k this year. It was explained: “That is not to say only spend that, if we have more income or more marketing opportunities we can spend more if need be.
A recent ‘Love your local markets’ campaign was described, with various banners and bunting in place, along with two weeks of activities such as face painting, art workshops and guitarists in the markets – chosen after consultation with traders.
One councillor explained she had been told a musician was not audible due to a radio playing, and traders were not able to turn it off. However that was rejected with it pointed out four traders have access to the volume and could have done so.
The overall campaign was described as having a good vibe and the ‘traders embraced it’.
Cllr John Pritchard pulled up a reference to future roof work, and enquired if solar panels had been explored as an option to help save traders money. The officer said that had not been considered, but would now be looked into.
The number of vacant stalls were also examined by councillors, with context given by an officer: “In the last 12 months it has been difficult to recruit.
“A lot of tenants were holding off due to Tŷ Pawb, but now that is running, since then we have had more interest in the Butchers and General markets.”
Tŷ Pawb appeared to have been veteoed in a secret pre-meeting as a topic for questions – despite having a market element – and perhaps breaking from the prearranged voldemortifcation.
Cllr Evans said ‘we must not forget Tŷ Pawb’ explaining that vacancies in the Butchers market had been created due to Tŷ Pawb, adding that new businesses had been created in the new development and all were doing ‘extremely well’.
Ten vacant stalls are noted in the report, with Cllr Sonia Benbow-Jones asking about the plans to remove four stall places to create ‘dwell space’, enquiring if it was better to see the market full to capacity.
The meeting was told of experience from other markets across the UK that have methods to increase dwell time by those visiting, saying people will shop as well as sit down and have a cup of tea, listen to music or take part in specific events.
Trader feedback was mentioned, with their preference for full stalls being explained: “Trading in town and markets has changed.
“Dwell time is something we are pushing for and wifi is a now a massive difference. We have consulted with traders and will be reviewing in three and six months time.”
There was positive talk about the outdoor Monday Market, with the aim to extend it if possible, and attract new traders rather than move people from their historic good performing pitches.
Cllr Marc Jones asked about the figures of stall reduction to create dwell space and how that matched with rent roll, looking for assurances trader rent would not go up.
The officer reasssured the meeting the change would just mean the ten vacant stall figure would reduce to six, and the increased dwell time should mean increased take up.
Cllr Pritchard took a subterranean turn to the meeting, burrowing into the history of the markets to explain there were big cellars under the Butchers market and ‘tunnels under the High Street’.
His call for more historical explorations was echoed later by Cllr Benbow-Jones who said ‘history does not make money but it sells’, exploring holograms as an option to tell the take of Wrexham’s rich market history.
Sadly the meeting was told that the cellars, despite being ‘beautiful down there’, had not been used for many years and were not safe and there was no access – and perhaps most disappointing was the description of the tunnels as being ‘blocked off’.
Such underground adventures are not on ‘immediate plans’, however were not totally ruled out.
Cllr Paul Roberts, who was chairing his first meeting in a businesslike and efficient manner, enquired on the offer from traders and how that could change in the future.
The meeting was told that research in other markets had seen food offerings being positive, and something that the town has, but could be expanded.
To the surprise of many the (too warm) heat in the Butchers market was described as an ‘issue’ and is being looked at. Food was given as a ‘daily reason to come in’ and research from Glyndwr University students will be finalised later this year that ought to give more background to these findings.
The officer spoke of trader and shop offerings” “If we get footfall into markets and town centre, and if they are not buying, is it what they are providing?” adding that some traders are open to change whereas others seem less keen.
Cllr Roberts told the meeting for the benefit of the webcast (as the sweltering public gallery was empty aside from Wrexham.com) that two representatives from traders had been invited to the meeting, however none had attended, and only one had replied to say they could not.
That one reply also appeared to have unspecified feedback notes, not read out in the meeting, but must have had strength as a meeting between the chair, vice chair, council officers and the email-writer was to be arranged to ‘discuss the issues raised’.
Councillors agreed to thank officers for the work, and also put forward a request for next year’s report to include feedback from traders and further information on costing and the impact of marketing campaigns.
As usual we were tweeting from the meeting, with an archive below in reverse chronological order.
No AOB so Cllr Paul Roberts wraps up his first chairmanship – fuller meeting report on site soon as usual! Fresh air and cold water now needed…
Calendar juggle: Tŷ Pawb was to be looked at in 12mths, Clr Davies wants update in 6mths & gets it unanimously. Meeting to ‘investigate the reasons for the closure of the Sprouts childcare nursery’ looks like will be bumped forward too – Cllr Marc Jones: “Sooner the better!”
Tŷ Pawb was off limits today, appears some Cllrs had Q’s but told before meeting not for today. Topic request form to scrutinise it has been submitted so should be looked at some point this year ( details link )
Cllrs wrap up the market scrutiny debate – recommendation appears to be thanks to officers for good work, but wants feedback from traders next time, more detailed costings plus details on marketing – to discover what has worked so can be spread around WCBC.
Officer makes general comment about footfall (with stats saying town centre is up) noting that if people in but not buying then offer could have to be reviewed and some traders open to that.
Although Tŷ Pawb off limits, Lead Cllr Terry Evans points out some traders moved from Butchers market and thus vacancies there, notes ‘we have created new businesses in Tŷ Pawb’ adds they are ‘doing extremely well’ in there.
Lots of positive stuff about Monday Market from officers and cllrs – ‘need more traders’! Lots of positivity about the potential of the wifi and what it means to indoor traders too.
Clr Benbow-Jones might want another look at cellars and tunnels, says ‘history does not make money but it sells’, adds that ‘holograms and beacon points’ could be used to tell the story of Wrexham’s market town history!
Clr Jenkins goes on to say he is pleased with progress of the two markets being discussed, and that surpluses are being reinvested. Notes WCBC doesnt own much in town centre, ‘the markets are at the heart of the success’ of the town.
Clr Jenkins has some mic feedback issues, after the screech Clr Marc Jones enquires if he has ‘just been beamed down?’ 😂
Cllr Lowe keen on wifi, says people can order online and pick up from markets! (Perhaps a relook at free short period parking? Was raised by a market trader in Town Forum and bumped by us although chair at the time wasn’t keen in 2016 link )
Sadly Officer says cellars are unsafe and tunnels blocked off, although notes they are ‘beautiful’. One for the future?
Cllr John Pritchard suggests more history on view at the markets – notes the Butchers Market cellars and ‘tunnels under the high street’. Work ongoing with Glyndwr students, but not including that aspect of work.
Cllr Davies probing why CCTV was not procured at the same time as the markets wifi was installed. Appears CCTV was different option, with wifi priority, and is in the plan for 2021.
Officer speaking about possible changes to ‘increase dwell time’ tells meeting Wrexham’s markets are ‘gorgeous buildings and not visible with current layout’. Dwell time a ‘critical component’.
The £28k wifi install figure is percentage covering General/Butchers market parts of the whole as its part of Tŷ Pawb install too, Clr Davies asks for total wifi bill. Officer does not have the total cost to hand.
Clr Dana Davies asks about the £28k wifi, says committee advised not to mention Tŷ Pawb but asks if the wifi bill was split 3 ways to cover all 3 markets or just Butchers / General.
Officer updates market wifi issues BT’s end – and traders issued with passwords yesterday morning and 24hrs later no issues from traders reported.
Two bits to start via Cllr Marc Jones who praises work, notes ‘Tŷ Pawb will not be mentioned’ today, and asks about wifi costs and says he has heard it is not reliable via traders
We have a committee, cllrs, a chairperson, various officers & the relevant lead member – it seems the meeting is ready to rock. Public gallery empty aside from us, thought there might have been a few observing / feeding in. Temp? Volcanic. Watch live link
Town centre, and democracy thattaway ➡️ (no markets signage yet) PIC:
(Click for large)
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email News@Wrexham.com