Wigan market investment - negative reaction from traders and politicians
Withering responses have been given to the lack of a rent reduction for stallholders in the ailing facility, while the town hall was also accused of presenting as major developments things which traders see as routine maintenance which should be done anyway.
The council has also received criticism for its handling of the feasibility study, with independent representative for Hindley Green Coun Paul Maiden saying the document should have been ready months ago.
He now fears for the future of some of the stalls as traders will now be paying the same rates as before through what are traditionally the toughest months of the year for them.
Steve Butler, who runs Steve’s Records, said: “What a whitewash this is. It’s terrible.
“When the council said it would send letters out we knew it was going to be bad news because they couldn’t even face us in a room to tell us.
“Everything we have said or put forward has just had another hurdle placed in front of it.
“Everything is negative with them. I’m so annoyed and disappointed.
“They say they are giving us WiFi but you can get WiFi on any bus or train for free. That should be in with the deal. Another thing is they’ve said they are going to paint the market hall, but that should just be done anyway.
“There are pigeons in the market hall and I’ve had rats at my stall for which I’ve had to put traps down.
“I’m shocked about the lack of a rent reduction.
“I feel like I’m working for the council at the moment because I’m not doing anything other than keeping my head above water.
“Some weeks I don’t even take a wage home.
“Footfall is terrible. Just go into the market and look at it: it’s like a ghost town.”
The publication of the plans for the market was delayed by the announcement of the general election, which meant the council was in purdah.
A meeting was held in September when traders’ representatives requested the local authority consider reducing stall rentals by 30 per cent, something which ultimately the council claims is unviable.
Coun Maiden said: “The council has given out letters but you wouldn’t speak to a business client like that..
“The market traders are paying for these stalls and they should be seen as customers.
“Sprucing up stalls should be a given.
“That’s not something extra, that’s just basic care and attention.
“Market traders are hanging on in there. They just want a reduction in what they are paying.
“This council takes so long to act. This should have been done before the election.
“We wanted it put in place so the traders could get some money into their accounts during the Christmas period. That would help to get them through the leanest period of January to March.”
One of the questions still hanging over the market’s future is whether it will remain in its existing position or be shifted elsewhere in the town centre.
Coun Maiden, though, is adamant other locations around The Galleries Shopping Centre would not be suitable.
He said: “There’s nowhere else it can go. It can’t go downstairs in The Galleries because the footfall there is even worse.
“It’s a purpose-built market place and before that there was a market place there for 200 years.
“The other alternative would be to whittle the stalls down to next to nothing so what is left of the market can go anywhere.”
Traders said they believe the high rents, coupled with a lack of shoppers visiting that particular part of the town centre, are at the root of the market’s decline.
They want costs of doing business to be lowered in the hope that encouraging traders who have already gone to return will make the market more vibrant and attractive to prospective customers.