The run-down indoor-market at the Idlewells Shopping Centre in Sutton could close and move to a new site in the town if plans for a £400,000-plus facelift are rejected.
Ashfield District Council, which operates the centre, has been told that urgent action is needed to improve the market building, which is deteriorating into a dangerous condition.
And its Cabinet meeting on Thursday night will be asked to decide on one of two options -- essential remedial works and refurbishment, or vacating the premises altogether and providing a new, purpose-built indoor market on Fox Street.
Things have come to a head because the market, which has received no significant modernisation since it opened in 1971, is in decline.
Only three-quarters of its 59 stalls are currently occupied, and annual income is falling. But most alarmingly, its roof is leaking and must be replaced, while its fire-detection system, smoke ventilation and “poor” lighting are all in need of an upgrade. Adding to the safety risk is the presence of asbestos in the roof.
However, the market still attracts about 25,000 shoppers per week and the council says it is determined to “retain a vibrant indoor-market service in Sutton”.
A report to be presented to Cabinet tomorrow reads: “The market is generally well presented, but the facilities are dated. The ambience is in need of attention.
“Doing nothing is not a realistic option due to the ongoing and increasing risks and costs.”
The report reveals that speculation about the future of the market had filtered through to traders, unsettling their business.
More than 30 traders attended meetings with the council and made it clear they would prefer to move to the Fox Street site, previously occupied by the Conservative Club but owned by the council. This was because it was close to the Asda superstore to the south of the town centre, where more and more people were doing their shopping.
“A new market would be a risk because if it did not offer the required standards, shoppers would not return, traders would vacate and the building would become empty,” says the report. “But it could be iconic. It would require greater initial investment than the refurbishment option but, potentially, it could offer a greater rate of return.”
As for the refurbishment option, a total of £400,000 has already been approved for the essential repair work. And if given a complete makeover as well, the market would probably attract more shoppers to an Idlewells centre that already boasts 90,000 visitors per week.
However, the work would take a minimum of 26 weeks to complete, forcing the traders to be re-located elsewhere, probably outdoors in Christmas market-type wooden chalets.
“The existing traders are loyal, but they did not like the idea of trading in an outside environment for 26 weeks,” says the report. “They said they would not take enough money to sustain their business and/or would start to look to trade elsewhere.”