A town’s weekly market could be saved by a new partnership.
On Monday (February 4) Sandy Town Council’s community services and environment committee discussed whether to call time on the Friday market or, alternatively, how to rejuvenate.
The market now boasts just two regular stalls. The enhancement of town’s markets has been a focal point for volunteer run Sandy Town Team since it was set up last year.
Councillor Andy Maycock spoke against closure. He said: ”Are we saying it’s the end of the story? It would be another devastating loss to the town quite frankly. It would be something else we don’t have that other places do have.”
Councillor Sharon Walsh, who is also a member of the Town Team, said: “Having spoken to people in other towns, the people who have made a success of their markets are the people who’ve raised money to employ somebody to do a market organiser’s job.
“I think we are using our resources in the wrong way getting volunteers to sit around the table talking about it. We need to pay somebody to go out there and do something. I think that’s where we should put our efforts.
“We should work with the town team to raise money to fund a post that gives someone a job. The Town Team are doing their best but they are all very busy people.”
Councillors Walsh and Maycock suggested that a joint market improvement group is formed with a small number of Town Team members and councillors working together. They said that by combining their knowledge, skills, fundraising abilities and authority they could help the market.
The committee agreed to suggest this to the Town Team.
However Councillor Martin Pettitt was pessimistic about the market’s future, citing the lack of support from shoppers. He said that people are attracted to visit markets when they go into town for other reasons and that there is nothing else drawing people into Sandy.
He said: “I think we’ve been round this circle so many times. I don’t believe that there’s, at this time, sad to say, a realistic prospect of either the Friday market or the Farmers’ market flourishing.”
Speaking of the prospect of employing a market manager, Councillor Marion Runchman said: “With the budget restrictions is that a priority or something else? What would we not have?”
The position of the market was also discussed. Councillors felt that having the stalls in the alley next to Sandy Car Park is not ideal as it is hidden from sight but Central Beds Council has vetoed several other sites in the market square on safety grounds.
Councillors also agreed that a continental market could run a market in the spring, at no cost to the town. If it is a success it may run on a regular basis.
Additionally they discussed the Town Team’s proposal to start a Have a Go Market for budding local entrepreneurs. They will suggest that this is run as part of the Friday market with stalls available at the going rates.
The committee’s decisions will be taken to the next full council meeting.