Burnley’s market will face closure unless it is used more by shoppers.
“Use it or lose it” is the message from town hall chiefs following the publication of a report which warns Burnley Council will not spend money on the facility if traders continue to leave.
The council’s decision-making body, the Executive, is set to approve new rent levels and extra promotional work in a last-ditch bid to attract more traders and customers into the indoor and outdoor markets.
Councillors are also being asked to set aside £60,000 for tests on the structure of the market hall, to determine possible alternative uses.
A report by head of facilities management Mr Colin Hill to the council’s scrutiny committee stresses the need for the council and tenants to work together is more important than ever.
The report states that, if new traders cannot be brought in and if visitor numbers continue to fall, the council will have to be prepared to “take a harder line on future market provision.”
A study of the markets earlier this year found the council would need to spend between £3m. and £6m., a move which the authority is not prepared to make.
Coun. Shah Hussain, Executive member for regeneration and economic development, said: “In the current financial climate, spending that kind of money with no guarantee it would secure the future of the market hall isn’t something we’re prepared to do.
“Like every other market in the country, it faces tough competition from pound shops and cut-price supermarkets and Burnley Market Hall has to find its own unique selling point that brings customers through the doors.
“It’s got to the point where it’s a matter of ‘use it or lose it.’ That’s why we want to look at ways of rejuvenating the market hall, lowering rents to attract new traders in and support existing ones, and further promoting the excellent value for money the markets offer to get more shoppers through the doors.”
If the report is agreed, councillors will authorise officers to set a new rental strategy with lower rents for tenants provided the tenants make agreed changes, as identified in the consultants’ report.
These include bringing new products to the market, phased rent deals, more flexible trading licences, as well as extra promotional work and encouraging more themed use of the open market.
Mr Hill added: “Over the years Burnley Council has worked with traders and tried to attract shoppers to the market hall. This is another big push to make the market hall a success. We can only do that if people support us.”
The decision on the future of the market hall will be made by the Executive next Tuesday.