BREAKING: Controversial plans for Mansfield market given go-ahead

Market Place
Market Place

Controversial plans for Mansfield market which will result in all traders being forced to move to the town centre have today been approved.

Traders on Westgate stalls will now have to relocate to the Market Place, and there will not be a market day on Mondays.

The new changes, which are part of a £100,000 “regeneration project”, will take place from the week commencing April 4, with the official launch on April 9.

Mansfield District Council’s portfolio holder for corporate services, Councillor Stewart Rickersey, made the final executive decision this morning.

“I am personally very excited about improving the performance of the market and restoring it to the heart of Mansfield town centre,” Coun Rickersey said.

“I hope that you will all be there to help breathe new life into the market.

“Mayor Allsop and her cabinet have given their support and I firmly believe that this project is in the best interest of the town.”

Extra consultation was carried out after Coun Rickersey’s original decision, taken on November 20, was “called in” by Labour councillors, which resulted in two further reports.

The council says the idea behind the plans is to create a “focal point” for footfall and encourage stall browsing. Some infrastructure changes will also be made to allow for more room in the market square.

Monday markets will no longer operate, however, Tuesday will become a full market day, giving stall holders the chance to switch trading days. Sundays will be home to car boot sales, events and special markets.

The meeting at Mansfield District Council opened with two questions from Councillor Lesley Wright, who is the wife of a market trader.

She said: “In Councillor Rickersey’s report it mentions consultation with traders. There has been one meeting with all traders who wished to attend and two separate meetings with a handful of invited traders. Two suggestions from the traders are being looked into, namely adapting the existing stalls and a different layout.

“May I ask for a full answer of why trader’s suggestions of having a small mini market for the affected Monday traders is not being offered? The suggestion included the traders themselves clearing their own rubbish and waiting longer for the stalls to be put up. Then there would be no loss off £20,000 in rent and less operating costs. Or alternatively, as the National Market Traders’ Federation suggested, licensing traders for a street stall.”

Coun Rickersey responded by saying that throughout the consultation period, there had been “ample” opportunity to put forward questions, including surveys and at discussions.

He also said that the National Market Traders’ Federation only represented 50 per cent of the traders in Mansfield, whereas in other towns he said it is about 75 per cent.

He added: “When changes occur, we cannot please everyone. The time for talking and doing nothing is over.”

For her second question, Councillor Wright, said: “Losing a market day would mean the only really fresh fruit and vegetables available in Mansfield town centre that day would be from Marks and Spencer’s. Given the high levels of people on welfare benefits, low incomes and pensioners, can Councillor Rickersey justify not putting in a mini market or licensed street stall into the plans as alternative to a full market day?”

In response, Coun Rickersey said: “The pensioners that you mention will know how to keep fresh fruit and vegetables for longer than a couple of days. I know my 80-year-old grandmother does.”

Coun Wright hit back by saying that a lot of pensioners do not like to come down to the market on a Saturday as it is too busy, meaning their groceries would have to last longer.

Coun Rickersey was then asked to address a “minority report” which was put forward by Labour councillors which included 12 points of “concern”. These observations included worries over the breadth of the consultation, accessibility to the market, the lack of transparency during the process, high footfall at Westgate and letters from the Market Traders’ Federation.

Coun Rickersey dismissed the points on the consultation’s lack of breadth claim and also the lack of transparency claim, saying that everything possible had been done to make sure everyone’s views had been considered.

Footfall figures, released by the district council for two entry points to the market, Leeming Street and Westgate, for the month of May from 2011 to 2015, show that the total number of visitors has reduced from 209,245 to 162,336 in the last five years.

“We are brave enough to see this through and make radical changes to the way Mansfield Market operates for the long term benefit of customers, residents and the traders themselves,” Coun Rickersey said.

“I am certain that the majority of traders will soon see that this is change for the better and that their businesses will thrive.”

The council say an “enhanced food area” is integral to the new layout of the market along with an entertainment area in front of the Town Hall. A promotional plan for the market includes live entertainment from famous Covent Garden acts, supported by performers, with about £20,000 committed to creating awareness and encouraging day visits.

There will be a focus on encouraging new products to Mansfield through the introduction of rent-free incubation units, business support and access to the council’s apprenticeship grant scheme.

The council’s community safety department says it will also be stepping up its presence to carry-out a “zero tolerance approach” to anti-social behaviour around the market.

The highlight of the launch will be on Saturday, April 9 when the town will have its first Covent Garden day with live performances and street entertainers.

Local performers interested in showcasing their talent or traders looking to take up a market stall should contact markets@mansfield.gov.uk or call 01623 463818.