Close Wakefield's 'dreadful looking' market outside cathedral, councillor says

Stall holders can be found on the cathedral precinct three days a week, but not between Sunday and Wednesday.
Stall holders can be found on the cathedral precinct three days a week, but not between Sunday and Wednesday.

A Wakefield councillor has branded the sight of market stalls on the city centre's cathedral precinct "dreadful and appalling".

Olivia Rowley suggested Wakefield's market be closed instead of repeatedly relocating it, during a debate about its future at a scrutiny committee on Monday.

The old market hall closed last year.

The old market hall closed last year.

The local authority has started a review into how it supports its six markets, in Wakefield, Ponefract, Castleford, Normanton, Ossett and South Elmsall.

Coun Rowley, who represents Wakefield East, said that she was a regular visitor to the city's market hall before it shut at the end of last year, but now believed it was better to close the stalls instead of moving them from one place to another.

She said: "Wakefield is a market town, or it was supposed to be anyway.

"But we got rid of the market hall, then we built the new market hall (in 2008), which was done by a developer who then gave it back to us.

Councillor Olivia Rowley said closing the market was preferable to constantly relocating it.

Councillor Olivia Rowley said closing the market was preferable to constantly relocating it.

"My worry really is that we've closed the market hall, closed the stalls and moved the traders into the precinct, which I think looks dreadful and appalling.

"Now they're possibly moving on somewhere else to try to maintain it, aren't we better just saying that Wakefield Market is not going to exist anymore?

"It seems incredible we're just trying to keep it moving around various parts of the city centre, and not having any consistency or reliability."

Ben Cook, the council's service manager for markets, said that the move to the cathedral precinct had been driven by the traders themselves but agreed its appearance could be improved.

Several other stall holders took up residence within the neighbouring bus station when the hall closed.

The outdoor market on the precinct currently runs between 8am and 4.30pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Mr Cook said: "A lot of the traders really struggled at the old market hall site, so they jumped at the opportunity to move to the precinct.

"Markets tend to thrive where there's already existing footfall. If you put one in an area where's no footfall it takes a lot of investment to bring people in. That's why we relocated the traders there.

"But I take your point about the look and feel of the stalls. A lot of the work we've been doing is around gazebos.

"The problem is that traders don't like them because they're not very functional.

"It comes back to finding that balance between what's right for the traders versus what's right for the shoppers."

Mr Cook added that the council was working with Wakefield BID to put on more "speciality events" like the Rhubarb Festival, Seaside in the City and Pontefract's Liquorice Festival.

He said this would aid the market because of the numbers of people the events draw.

"Our research shows that between 40 to 50 per cent of the people who attend those events come from outside the district," he said.

"We closed the market hall last year because people weren't using it.

"I'm not saying we would never look at developing another market hall if the business case was right, but more specialist events is the feedback we're getting at the moment."