Wednesday, 20 June 2012

I wonder what's in Bradford Council's rather secretive "markets review"?

Solly's Fruit & Veg - from John Street Market but here on tour in Haworth

Way back in May 2000 I became Bradford’s Portfolio Holder for Regeneration succeeded the current leader of council in that role. At the time there was a great long wish list of projects – it seemed that hardly a community in the City hadn’t been promised some miraculous regenerative cure.

Amongst all these promises were records of a series of discussions with a large Bradford-based supermarket chain. Some of these discussions related to the relocation of Morrison’s headquarters from Thornton Road to Gain Lane at Thornbury (the land there was in Council ownership). However, some of the remaining discussions related to the “regeneration” of Bradford’s markets – the John Street Market in the City centre and Keighley Market in the centre of that town.

Keighley folk may recall the debate about the possible relocation of the market so as to give Morrison’s a frontage on Low Street (right opposite the shopping centre where the market entrance is located). What Bradford folk don’t appreciate is that the Council had been in a similar conversation regarding John Street Market. And bear in mind that Cllr Green had already presided over the demolition of Rawson Market, Yorkshire’s last specialist municipal fresh food market – ostensibly for reasons of “health and safety”.

By 2000 it was too late to save most of the fishmongers, many of the butchers and most of the greengrocers decamped from the knocked down Rawson and James Street Markets – dozens of long established businesses sacrificed on the altar of “regeneration”. But we could – and did - put a stop to the idea of tucking the markets away behind a supermarket. And we did rebuild John Street market (I remain unsure about the rebranding as the Oastler Centre although this was done for good reasons and with positive intent).

I’m saying all this because I fear that we may be back defending the District’s markets. It has already been reported that the Shipley outdoor market is threatened with relocation – away from the car park, away from the centre of the town. What we don’t know is the full detail and content of the “markets review” ordered by the Council’s regeneration chiefs.

I fear – and I know some traders do too – that the Council fancies the chance to close down John Street Market (they’ll call it consolidation or merger with Kirkgate Market). After all the advocates of shiny regeneration that dominate our local agenda have never liked markets. Untidy places filled with cheap stuff, immigrants and poor people – not the sort of folk we aspire to in our wonderful city centre! A supermarket would be altogether neater and think of the capital receipt from selling the John Street site!

The markets review is being driven by the desire for savings – yet the markets generate a healthy surplus after all their costs are accounted for. The wonder of these places is ignored. The chance to invest, to grow and to improve is not taken. And the fact that markets make a place far better than shopping centres, public art or supermarkets is simply dismissed.

I may be proven wrong about the markets review – although the Council’s leadership is remarkably coy about the very existence of the review, let alone its content. But if Councillor Green returns to his 1990s habits of trying to knock down successful markets, it will make the Odeon debacle seem like a walk in the City Park.



Ken Eastwood said...

Points very well made Simon. Markets deserve a 21st century future and are seeing a resurgence of support in many other areas.

Anonymous said...

And at the same time, the same Council has problems with private markets, usually known as 'bazaars', generally outside the city centre and run by entreprising immigrant stock and clearly commercially successful.

What has Bradford Council got against enterprise ?

Lysistrata said...

I am deeply worried about John St market's survival. It still has a vibrancy and sells stuff you can't get anywhere else in Bradford. It has proper butchers and one proper fishmongers and a great spice stall and a Polish delicatessen - and other stuff, like a kitchen shop where you can still buy enamel dishes.

Way back, I was one of the "Kirkgate 38" - the ones that futilely held a sit-in to try and preserve the old Victorian Kirkgate market. Got arrested and all that. They knocked it down, the bastards. Along with the Mechanics' Institute...

I think that was when Eric Newby got arrested - bribery and faux modernism and planning permission and all that. Of course, that would never happen nowadays, would it, Simon?

Please keep up the fight.