A progress report about the ongoing and future rejuvenation of two of Wrexham’s indoor markets is up for discussion this week – with plans to ensure they have a future and are fit for a modern retail environment remaining a priority for Wrexham Council.
In April 2016 Wrexham Council published its Strategic Asset Management Plan 2016-21 (SAMP), a ‘critical appraisal’ of the three town centre indoor markets, 24 retail shops and the outdoor Monday market.
The report, which acknowledged the importance of Wrexham’s markets and the “significant contribution” they make to the local economy, received unanimous support from the then members of the Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee.
One of the key features in last year’s report was the proposed five year strategy and potential improvement plans for both the General and Butchers Markets. A list of priorities were provided for the two markets – largely focusing on revamping and improving the overall appearance, maintenance and access.
It is estimated that over the next five years, to comprehensively refurbish the property to an overall standard that would be considered excellent, in the region of £128,000 for the General Market and £290,000 for the Butchers Market would need to be spent.
Tomorrow members of the Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee will be provided with a progress report on the work that has been undertaken on the Butchers and General Markets over the past 12 months – along with details on current occupancy levels and the potential future direction of the two sites.
The updated report due before councillors features a revised action plan outlining the progress of the SAMP, along with details of future proposals to enhance the two indoor markets and associated shops. Such improvements are listed as being “subject to securing the appropriate funding and managing the current proposed income figures.”
Progress of the SAMP over the past year is listed as being “difficult” due to “reduced income levels which in order to cover overall expenditure for the 3 markets”. This resulted in an overall overspend of £45,000, which has been met from the Housing & Economy’s Cash limited budget to avoid the markets account starting with a negative balance in 2017/18.
The overspend is put down to concessions offered and subsequent relocations of traders from the Peoples Market due to the ongoing redevelopment of the site. The Peoples Market is alluded to several times within the report, however is excluded from the SAMP progress due to the conversion into an arts / cultural / market hub.
The report states: “This year has been a transition period for the market traders of Wrexham. Due to the development of the Peoples Market and the relocation of traders it was important both the General and Butchers Market had a year of stability.
“A great deal of time and effort has been put in to communicating with all traders to ensure a successful transition of relocated tenants into the well-established Butchers and General Market family of traders.
“During this time it has also been important to support the traders who remain in the South Arcade. A range of activities have been put in place to promote footfall within the South Arcade, such as weekly family activities, a variety of press releases, new paintwork and improved signage (shop fronts). Rental concessions and business support has also been made available.”
Another hinderance to progress on the plan was unplanned works which were deemed essential but had not been included in the SAMP.
Updates are provided in the report on the work that has been undertaken over the past 12 months, including the refurbishment of two key stalls in the Butchers Market and repairs to the walls and flooring in Butchers Market café.
A new fire alarm system has been installed within the Butchers and General Market to ensure that they are fully compliant with various Health & Safety laws, as well as wanting to protect traders and the public.
Looking ahead the report lists repairing the glass roof in General Market, installation of WiFi in the two markets, upgrading toilets and refurbishing / replacing the stalls and canopies in the Butchers Market as just some of the council’s priorities.
One of the main changes in the pipeline is improving the ‘streetscape within the immediate vicinity to the markets and Council owned shops on Chester Street and Henblas Street’.
The report notes: “Physical improvements within the two markets are required for this area to be a catalyst for private investment in other buildings around High Street, Chester Street and Henblas. The Council control very few assets in the Town Centre and the ownership of these buildings offers an opportunity for the Council direct intervention in regenerating the Town Centre.”
It adds: “With this in mind a schedule of works will continue to be developed as a priority, to ensure that the markets are fit for a modern retail environment and have a future which is sustainable and provide a modern attractive destination for all shoppers from within the county and visitors.”
Although sections one through seven are not published, there is also section eight of an appendix detailing the action plan for 2016/2017 – with the report itself detailing 23 planned items with three having ‘achieved’ by them.
However the report also comes with a word of caution, noting that the proposed changes / improvements do not guarantee success or an improvement in footfall. Instead a combination of financial investment, visual improvements in the vicinity of the market and wider town centre and traders providing goods which attract shoppers, are all listed as requirements in taking the markets forward.
The report (which can be viewed in full here) will be discussed by members of the Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny at 4pm on Tuesday 18th July.