Market a tatty show, claims council
OFFICIALS at Civic Centre don't think the town's market is worth saving, The Evening Star can reveal today.They think the market is tatty and run-down – and doesn't portray the right image of the town in the 21st century.
By Paul Geater
OFFICIALS at Civic Centre don't think the town's market is worth saving, The Evening Star can reveal today.
They think the market is tatty and run-down – and doesn't portray the right image of the town in the 21st century.
Which came as news to the traders at the market – many of them have contracts to supply the council offices!
Council insiders don't have a high opinion of the market, and feel that it only caters for a minority of people who aren't prepared to pay higher prices in supermarkets or other shops.
"You've got a few stalls selling out of date biscuits and fruit and veg that isn't good enough for the supermarkets," one council official told the Star.
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But Adrian Sharpe, who runs the large grocery stall, said he bought much of his stock direct from the manufacturers – and it was well in date.
"Most of our stock has months to go before the sell-buy date. There is a small amount of stock nearer the date, but that's sold at extra discount.
"If they're so worried about this, why have I got the contract to supply biscuits to Civic Centre?" he said.
And market traders' spokesman Mike Young said one of the traders had a contract to supply fruit and vegetables to the council's own canteen.
"I've never heard such rubbish in my life he said."
Greengrocery stallholder Nigel Parker was last year voted young greengrocery market trader of the year. He estimated that 30 per cent of his business came from Civic Centre employees or councillors.
"We get our supplies from the same places as shops throughout East Anglia. If we sell second-rate stock, so do they," he said with a disbelieving laugh.
The council doesn't like the look of the market either.
"The stalls aren't exactly a good advert for Ipswich – you wouldn't want them on the Cornhill and other businesses don't want them in Lloyds Avenue," said the council official.
Council officials think that "market shoppers" are a separate group who make a specific effort to shop there on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
However in other towns and cities like Norwich, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge they are integrated in the centre and people use both shops and market stalls.
Although officials are dubious about the value of the market to a town being marketed under the IP-City brand, the Star understands that councillors – aware that there are crucial elections in just three months' time and that the future of the market is a major talking-point in the town – are desperately looking for a solution to the problem.
The traders themselves are aware that the look of the market could be improved.
"If we were in a better place we would generate more business and it would be easier to go to the banks and ask for finance to make improvements to the stalls," said traders' chairman Mike Young.
"But there aren't enough people coming here to make it possible for us to make that kind of investment. I've had some new banners on order for some time, but I'm still waiting to collect them – I'm hoping they'll be up sometime during the spring."
We contacted businesses in Lloyd's Avenue to find out why they didn't want the market in the area – and those we spoke to were astonished by the council's comments.
Steve Barker, of the Hogshead pub, summed up the view of many of the traders.
"I think I could live with the disappointment of seeing a lot of people attracted to the area by a market!" he joked.
"It would be good for Lloyds Avenue. This can be a bit of a dead end at times – a market at the bottom would give it a good kick start.
"The market can't come soon enough – so long as any mess is cleared up afterwards."
His view was backed up by Beverley Henderson, duty manager at the Pizza Express restaurant.
"From my personal point of view, I would welcome it. It would be very good for business and bring in more people," she said.
At Enjoy Sandwich Shop, staff felt the market would not cause any problems for them – so long as any mess was cleared up afterwards.
Jan Dadswell is a partner in the Hot Potato Company and Hot Sausage Company which has some of the most popular hot food stalls in the centre of Ipswich.
She accepted that the market needed a new home.
"This is a nice outlook over the Cornhill and it is fairly clean – but I realise the market traders need a new location if they are to survive," she said.
"I would be concerned if we could not get access at the back of Lloyds Avenue because that's where we load and unload our stands.
"But a market here wouldn't cause us problems as such because there would be no direct competition for us.
"We would want to see that the Cornhill was properly cleared up after it had gone," she said.
An application to move the market to the Cornhill area was deferred in November after council officials said a plan for 49 stalls in the area was too intensive.
They said the maximum it could hold was 30.
Now traders have contacted the council to say they would accept that restriction – and other restrictions which were suggested at the time.
Their latest letter has been received by the council's planning department and is expected to be discussed by its development control committee in the early spring.
n The Star's online poll has found that 81 per cent of people are in favour of the market thriving in the town.
You can take part by visiting our site at www.eveningstar.co.uk