'Struggling' Northampton market traders call for compensation payment from council's £150,000 war chest – but WNC says no

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
“The council does not understand that Commercial Street is still too far for people to come.”

‘Struggling’ Northampton market traders have called for the council to give them a slice of a £150,000 war chest to tide them over until refurbishment works at Market Square are complete.

Crunch talks between West Northants Council (WNC) and market traders took place on Monday night (June 5) at The Guildhall in Northampton town centre.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Traders say they have been ‘struggling’ at their temporary site in Commercial Street car park after being moved off of Market Square five months ago to allow £8.4million refurbishment works to take place at the site.

Dave DunkleyDave Dunkley
Dave Dunkley

The outcome of the latest meeting on Monday is that WNC has promised to spend £150,000 on events in a bid to increase footfall at the site. However, fruit and vegetable vendor Dave Dunkley and his colleagues have criticised the plans.

The 52-year-old said: “Now until September should be our busiest time and it’s not happening. It’s a ghost town down here.

"Previous events here or at the old market haven’t helped our business. I can’t see it working. I just think it’s a no-go. We’ve lost the passing trade, events won’t give us that.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“WNC said we need to form a committee and suggest ideas – how are we supposed to know what events will work?

Councillor Daniel Lister and council leader Jonathan NunnCouncillor Daniel Lister and council leader Jonathan Nunn
Councillor Daniel Lister and council leader Jonathan Nunn

“The council does not understand that Commercial Street is still too far for people to come.

"WNC says Bite Street was a success but it wasn’t for us.

"They’ve said we should work Sundays, why should we have to work Sundays? We stand six days a week, why should we have to stand seven days a week?

“I shall not be going to any more meetings. Enough is enough now. They seem to have their heels dug in with what they want to do.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“If all this fails, what’s the next step? This is my job at the end of the day. I love what I do but how much longer can we carry on for? The heritage of Northampton is being affected.”

With a move to Abington Street off the cards as refurbishment works are due to start later this year, Dave was asked what offer he would have liked to have seen from WNC.

He said: “We were hoping we would get some form of compensation. They told us they have £150,000 to put events on, why can’t some of that be used as compensation? £5,000 for each trader who stands six days a week and then return to Market Square when it’s finished.”

Asked to sum up the meeting in a few words, Dave said: “Waste of time.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Conservative councillor Dan Lister, the man in charge of the Market Square refurbishment project at WNC, said meetings with traders will continue until the Market Square refurbishment is finished.

He said: “It was agreed that both traders and WNC officers work collaboratively to create a programme of events which will start this summer and include investment from WNC to support the delivery of the events. This programme will be monitored to track footfall to the area and therefore support provided to traders.

"The discussions during the meeting were to create a collaborative group of traders and WNC officers to collate an outline events programme for the next 12 months, starting this summer. The options will then be discussed at the next meeting in July.

“Yes, the Council has committed to investing £150,000 into this programme, which will see events delivered over the coming months.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The council is working with traders to offer support during the temporary relocation. This includes officers regularly meeting with traders to understand how best to support them. We originally agreed to and are already giving them free rent, utilities and facilities, and extensively promoting the traders and location of the temporary market.

"Whilst we have been asked to consider paying further grants to the full time market traders rather than supporting all traders through attracting more footfall we do not think this is right action and would not be appropriate spend of public money. While investing money into events and activities provides opportunities for the wider community which the council serves.

“Both the council and traders would like to encourage everyone to visit the market at Commercial Street Car Park to see first-hand the fresh and local produce and gifts on offer.”

Regarding WNC’s use of taxpayer money, a freedom of information request submitted by this newspaper found that the council was involved in 54 tribunals with SEND parents last year which cost a total of £274,935.54 in legal fees to defend in court.