We all agree changes and improvements need to be made to Mansfield market place. It is Councillor Stewart Rickersey’s job to produce such proposals. This should have been done – and could have been done – without destroying the successful market that exists on Westgate.
In my opinion, based on my attendance at both of Mansfield District Council’s select committee meetings, what Coun Rickersey has produced are proposals based on inadequate research. My views are based on his responses to the questions put to him by the Labour group of councillors. In my opinion his answers revealed that:
1 – Legal requirements to research the effect of the proposals on equality and diversity and crime prevention had not been completed;
2 – The criteria for selecting towns for comparison of their markets was unclear and guidance issued to officers included irrelevant criteria such as selecting towns with Mayors. Other criteria were vague and unspecificed;
3 – It was not possible to judge the suitability of the towns chosen, as information relating to their demographics, business environment or the historical trading patterns of the towns was not available;
4 – In my view because of the research undertaken to Mansfield’s demographic and business environment, the lessons drawn from the 27 towns selected, are likely to be ill judged and unsuitable;
5 – The decision taken to recommend traders to wear a “uniform” seems to have been based on the comment of one respondent from Doncaster;
6 – The only evidence presented to support the exclusion of the 3,700 paper responses to the consultation was shown to be, in my opinion, insignificant and having no bearing on the final result. I believe the public was denied the opportunity to hear any other evidence;
7 – We must not forget, of course, that the previous portfolio holder, Coun Kate Allsop had fully accepted the results of this consultation. She agreed to keep the Market open six days, and on Westgate, just before the election in January. Coun Rickersey has now overturned this.
In my view the people of Mansfield are right to be suspicious of a decision that bounced this unpopular proposal forward after the election;
8 – The projected financial benefits of moving the Westgate market to Market Square
seem to be based on wishful thinking rather than hard evidence.
We all hope our market will pull through, as a vibrant and busy market would be an important component in the regeneration of our town centre.
However, I believe the current proposals are so ill-thought through and lacking in rigorous research they risk further undermining our town centre.
Coun Rickersey, the portfolio holder, should go back to the drawing board and produce a fully researched proposal incorporating the views of all stakeholders, not this ill-conceived, poorly researched plan. The people of Mansfield deserve better than this.