Mansfield’s struggling town centre market could be set for a new lease of life after plans were revealed for a £100,000 investment plan.
But traders have slammed the plans, saying that proposed rent increases and smaller stall spaces could put them out of business.
Mansfield District Council has also come under fire for discounting 4,000 responses that were part of a public consultation because they claim the people who submitted them had been misled.
The plans propose to complete re-structure of the open-air market space in front of the town hall, with a new layout, new stalls and dining area.
Stalls held on Westgate would also be moved to the central market location and clearer signs will be put up around the town centre towards the market.
The council are also pledging to bring in more traders with new products through an incentive scheme to fill gaps in the market - something the council says will help to make Mansfield market “a shopping destination of choice”.
An ‘entertainment area’ has also been written in amongst the plans, which would host artists and street performers.
It has been suggested that this area would be free for local groups to hire, such as school choirs and dancing clubs.
The funds would also go towards a new seating area for the food stalls, clustered together close to the entertainment, so people can enjoy themselves whilst eating.
The whole market place will then also be involved in themed events, which, according to a council report setting out the plans, will “draw in customers and supplement the regular market”.
Councillor Stewart Rickersey, portfolio holder for corporate services, has worked on the proposal report alongside retail experts and market researchers.
He said: “There is no doubt this is an ambitious plan, but it is very much needed for Mansfield to remain a vibrant market town.
“I want to see Mansfield go from strength to strength and a prosperous market has to be at the centre of the future plan for our town.
“The recommendations set out in the report show a significant investment from the council into Mansfield market - something traders and public have wanted to see for some time.”
However, traders on the market have expressed mixed views about the recommendations.
Whilst some of them are pleased with elements of the plans, many of them have slated the council for decisions that could be ‘detrimental’ to their businesses.
The report recommends that Mondays should be axed completely as a market day - leaving traders only able to operate five days a week, Tuesday-Saturday.
This has been put down to the market place being cleared on Sundays for entertainment events, leaving the stalls dismantled and not ready for the next day.
The report has also placed Wednesday’s market in ‘special measures’ due to lower trading rates - and the council will be giving it a 12 month review as to whether it should stay open.
But Rebecca Favill, who works on Favill’s Fruit and Veg stall, which has been around for more than 70 years, said these plans could run them out of business.
She said: “We make a living out of this and I feel the consultation is going to change an awful lot of things that will be detrimental to our business.
“Losing Mondays will lose us 25 per cent of our weekly business. How can somebody do that to us?
“A lot of the traders on Westgate feel really low about possibly having to move and they are saying they might leave the market all together.
“We don’t want to lose anymore stalls as it is. This consultation is going to affect us all in such a big way.”
Traders are also objecting to a potential change in the pricing for stall holders, as people would have to pay higher prices for smaller stall space.
A new price structure has been suggested for people to pay more or less depending on where the stall is situated.
Stef Powers, who has run the book stall for 23 years, thinks the change in prices will eventually kill the market off.
He said: “Everything that has been suggested leads to people not being able to afford to stay at the market.
“Some stalls might be a bit cheaper, but they will be located in a dead area of the market. We can’t win.
“They are cutting down the space and increasing the charges - everybody will leave at this rate.”
Many of the traders have also expressed concern over the public consultation, which took place in 2014.
Members of the public were asked to complete a survey about the future of Mansfield market - they were given the option of filling it in either on paper, or online via the website.
But when it came to putting these results together for the council’s report which was released last week, only the 717 online responses were used - the 3,709 paper responses were disregarded.
Sean Wright, holder of the computer games and DVD stall, has been on the market for 23 years.
He said: “A lot of the detail in the proposals is unworkable for the traders and I am not happy about 3,700 customers’ views not being represented in the consultation.
“Almost 4,000 people have been ignored and that is a lot of people. These are paper consultations done by people who actually came into Mansfield and who shop at the market.
“Surely that’s more representable than people who aren’t even at the market.”
But Coun Rickersey was quick to defend the council’s decision on this, as he said the paper survey was biased and presented to the public as a ‘save our markets’ campaign.
He said: “This was never the case and casts doubt as to the integrity of the responses gathered in this manner.
“The reaction from traders and shoppers is understandable. But the online responses, which would have been completed away from the emotion of the market are considered to be more reliable.”
A consultation between traders and the council was set to take place as the Chad went to press.
A final decision, after several meetings, will be made on Friday, November 20.
For more details visit www.mansfield.gov.uk to view the full report.
Pictured (from top) are traders Ian Hibbert and Nicole Barrows and the stalls on Westgate, which could be moved.