Wigan market trader exodus feared if council does not offer more support
Those are the fears of Coun Michael Winstanley, leader of the Conservative group on Wigan Council, who is worried fewer people will go into the town centre and businesses will be unable to survive.
He is calling on the local authority to offer greater financial support for market traders affected by the regeneration project to help secure their futures.
Coun Winstanley says there are growing concerns from Wigan’s traders about the “very limited” financial assistance being offered - understood to be a reduction of 30 per cent on rent and dependant upon traders providing financial statements.
He has written to council chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan calling for this to be reviewed as a matter of urgency, pointing out that Kirklees Council is currently refurbishing Huddersfield Market and traders there have been offered relief at 75 per cent.
He also recently met traders and Aidan Thatcher, director of economy and skills at the council, to discuss the situation.
Coun Winstanley said: “The current offer from the council will see many traders ceasing to trade in Wigan. Footfall is already a quarter less on what it was before lockdown. The problem of people coming into Wigan is going to get worse and we are going to see a spiral of decline.
“This isn’t even without precedent in Wigan. The council introduced a financial package which gave three months’ free rent when the old bus station was being demolished and the new one was under construction. A similar scheme would be very much welcomed by the traders.
“I appreciate the council will claim that it can’t afford such a scheme and the loss in income that would follow, but if a scheme isn’t offered then a lot of traders will not survive and not be replaced so the council will then lose all its income from rents the traders provide.
“If the council don’t take this seriously, then Wigan as a market town will die and these current market traders will not make it through the next six months, never mind the two years before the new market opens.”
A £190m transformation Galleries25 masterplan was approved by the council in November and will see most of the complex razed to be replaced largely with leisure, hospitality and retail premises plus a new market.
Mr Thatcher said: “The redevelopment of the Galleries shopping centre and market hall represents a significant opportunity to regenerate and repurpose Wigan town centre for the benefit of local businesses, residents and visitors based on current and future high street trends.
“The market is an important asset in our town centre and a focal point of the new development. We have been working with traders, who will remain in the existing market until the new hall opens, to listen to their requests and explore the additional support available. The support package we have developed is wide ranging and aims to address any concerns. While we were not able to meet all requests made, we believe the offer is appropriate and will support market traders prior to their move into the new market hall.”
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here