SUSAN Almond’s letter about the failure of the Wakefield Market is quite right in all but one important aspect, that Graham Wilson OBE had anything to do with the new market.
Graham Wilson is the chief executive of NABMA– a national markets organisation that has been very successful in raising the profile of markets with Central Government. He has given every opportunity to Councils such as Wakefield to properly manage and develop their markets. His award is well deserved.
I was fortunate to lead the management and development of the Wakefield Metropolitan markets through the 1980s and into the 1990s – a very successful period for all markets stakeholders that included the relocation and renewal of Castleford Market from a poor tertiary site to a primary retailing location in the heart of the town centre. The new Castleford Market became instantly successful; it still brilliantly thrives and actively serves its community.
All the council had to do was to copy what was achieved for Castleford. Instead, it did the opposite. Moving Wakefield’s market from a good location to a peripheral retailing site instantly lost its purpose, its vitality and its viability.
The new Wakefield Market needed to front the Springs to create - and benefit from – pedestrian linkage between Trinity Walk and the Ridings. It needed a well thought out design of market hall and stalls - and a proper layout.
And it needed to be of a size that would have continued to be a huge shopping attraction, thus underpinning the retail heart of our city centre.
The council got none of this right. The market used to be a key economic driver for the city centre, attracting many tens of thousands of people each week. Now - on most days - it is lucky to attract anybody.
It’s clear that the council just hoped this matter would go away, but four years on from its opening – and with four years’ worth of continuous public complaints – it’s clear that the public won’t allow that to happen.
The council failed the traders, the shopping public and the city centre retailers yet we haven’t heard one word of acknowledgment or regret from the council or seen any commitment or vision to put things right for the future.
As a market specialist myself who went on to improve Barnsley Market and many others around the country, I believe that Wakefield Market could be put right, but before that could happen the council needs to be big enough to admit they got it wrong.