Row over where Wellingborough’s continental market could be held

The continental market in Market Street in 2013
The continental market in Market Street in 2013

A row has broken out over where Wellingborough’s continental market could be held.

Wellingborough Business Improvement District (BID), Wellingborough Chamber of Commerce and the Town Centre Partnership are unhappy with a policy which means the continental market cannot be held in Market Street this month – the location it has used since launching five years ago.

John Cable, executive director of Wellingborough BID which is paid for by businesses and stages events to encourage people into the town centre, applied to hold the market in its usual place on March 20, but the council said its market rights policy states no market can be authorised within 6.6 miles of Wellingborough’s regular market.

Mr Cable said the decision was catastrophic and ‘will jeopardise the future of the town centre.’

He added: “At a time when Wellingborough is facing one of the toughest trading times in its history, with the opening of the multi-million pound Rushden Lakes development on the horizon we can only see this ludicrous decision as a non-reversible loss to the town.”

Mr Cable and BID chairman Chris Bailey met with the council’s three most senior heads of department this month to try and get the council to re-think its decision, but it was upheld with members of the council also rejecting the move.

The BID says the continental market is a speciality short-term market which cannot be seen to compromise the traditional market in any way.

Mr Bailey added: “We are calling on the council to do the right thing for the whole of Wellingborough.

“Our concerns about the market’s future are at a critical level.

“Our suggestion to help by re-locating the continental market to Pebble Lane, which would actually increase footfall to the Market Place even more has also fallen on deaf ears.

“It’s like the council is trying to lockdown the town centre.”

In response, a spokesman for Wellingborough Council said that last June the council adopted a market rights policy in which it recognised the importance of markets to the local economy and the character of the area.

There was consultation with Wellingborough BID, the Chamber of Commerce, Wellingborough Town Centre Partnership, Wellingborough market traders and other interested parties.

People were encouraged to give their views about the draft policy, which suggested that markets should take place on the market square; this consultation did not generate any objections or comments.

The policy is aimed at protecting Wellingborough market from commercial events that will draw people away from it.

To encourage greater footfall to the market, a dedicated events space has been created and events are planned throughout the year to coincide with the relaunch of the market which is due to take place in early summer.

The continental market has been invited to use this space but has to date declined to do so because the continental market operator says Market Street is the only viable location for the event.

The application to hold the continental market on an alternative site within the town was considered by the cross-party market working group, who unanimously agreed to support the decision to refuse permission in line with council policy.

However, they have said they are willing to consider an amendment to the adopted policy which may allow a continental market to be held later in the year, but any proposals for change will have to go through the democratic decision-making process.

Cllr Graham Lawman, chairman of the market working group, said: “The council has been working with market traders for a number of years now to look at ways to improve the market and increase footfall; the introduction of a market rights policy is one of the ways of doing this.

“It would be perverse to introduce a policy and then ignore it.

“The continental market is welcome to use the event space on the market.

“The council has offered, and would welcome, the opportunity to work in partnership with the BID on future events; in fact we are currently about to start discussions with the BID regarding the new Christmas lights.”

Council leader Martin Griffiths said: “We have asked the BID to provide evidence of the benefits the continental market and other BID events bring to existing market traders and other town centre businesses so that we can co-ordinate our efforts to make this a bigger, better event for the whole of the town.”

At the meeting between the BID and the interim directors of the council the democratic and decision making processes were explored.

The council spokesman said options for putting forward a business case to the council for a different approach to events in the town centre were suggested to the BID so council members could consider its policies in a public meeting.