Page 30 - MarketTimesApril2016
P. 30

Market Times • April 2016
The fight is on to save Darlington Market
 TRADERS at Darlington’s historic market hall are reeling from the shock announcement that the council is wanting to offload the running of the market, which it says needs £4 million of investment.
They have been given first refusal to stump up the £4 million and take over the market operation, or the council says it will seek a commercial operator.
The bombshell was announced as part of a drastic plan by the council to slash £12.5 million from its budget due, it says, to cuts by central government.
The council has given traders three months to organise a co-operative to run the market and find £4 million to pay for repairs to the 153-year- old Grade II listed building.
After that they will seek a private company willing to pay for the repair work and run the market.
The traders have been shocked to the core by the news which they say came “like a bolt from the blue”.
Michael Nicholson, the NMTF’s National President, who visited traders to discuss the development and has since met with representatives of Darlington Council, said the traders were faced with a “mission impossible” to raise £4 million from scratch. It was highly unlikely that any private operator would view it as a viable investment, he said, considering that the estimated £4 million was simply for repairs to a building that the council would retain ownership of.
Fruit and veg trader Robin Blair, who has spent 65 years on the market, said he would fight tooth
Robin Blair (right, pictured with NMTF National President Michael Nicholson), who has a large fruit and veg business on the market, is determined to fight for the market where he had spent all his working life
and nail to save the market, and he disputed the council’s £4 million estimate for repairs.
There was no urgent need to spend such a large sum and there was plenty of room for savings on services such as the market cleaning, he added.
“This is an iconic market that has a special place in the hearts of everyone in Darlington,” he said. “The indoor market makes an annual profit of £20,000 and if it needs repairs it is because of the past 37 years of neglect and lack of investment since the last refurbishment.”
He said that some years ago the people of Darlington had rallied behind the market when there was a threat from Tesco and they would do the same again.
Within a couple of days of the council’s
announcement 8,000 people had signed a petition to save the market.
Traders including Julie Sperring, who runs Julie’s Florists, were still struggling to take in the devastating news.
And Angie Smedley, who runs a catering van on the outside market and chairs the Darlington NMTF branch, said: “It is really shocking, but we will have to all work together to find a way forward for the market.”
Michael said he and the NMTF were offering every support to the traders. “Finding £4 million in a few months isn’t going to be possible, and it is hard to imagine any private operator looking on this as a good investment.”
He said he had now met with council officers who had been reassuring about the future of the market, but these were difficult and worrying times for everyone who cared about Darlington market.
     Angie Smedley is pictured in the catering van she runs on Darlington outdoor market. Angie is chair of the Darlington NMTF branch

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