Page 44 - MarketTimesApril2016
P. 44

  Coun John Hudson, who is responsible for planning for West Lancashire Borough Council, which covers Ormskirk market, is pictured (right) with markets and parking officer Steven Wilson (left) and market superintendent Neil Lloyd-Knapman
Carolyn Lloyd-Knapman has been running a stall specialising in mainly Lancashire cheese since last October
  Neil Thompson has turned his back on an accountancy career to run a successful confectionery business on Ormskirk market
John Cooper has been selling fabric on the market for the past 48 years
Like so many northern towns Ormskirk, just north of Liverpool, has a fight on its hands to retain jobs, commerce and a viable retail heart in the face of competition from out of town shopping centres and its big city neighbours.
But this West Lancashire town has two key assets — the burgeoning Edge Hill University which brings new young blood to the town, and its vibrant, two-day-a-week market.
Ormskirk market was granted charter status in 1286. These days it comprises more than 90 stalls that stretch along a wide pedestrianised area along Moor Street and down Aughton Street.
Location has always been key for this most traditional of markets. In days gone by the heart of the market was at the junction of these streets which were the main route between Preston, Liverpool and Wigan.
West Lancashire has more green belt land than any other borough. In days gone by the market was the natural focal point for farmers and traders wanting to sell livestock and produce from the surrounding farmland.
These solid foundations have stood the market in good stead over the years. But
times change and West Lancashire Borough Council is acutely aware of the trends and pressures that threaten the lifeblood of towns like Ormskirk.
The council recently invested £900,000 in improving the paving, street furniture and planting trees in a section of Moor Street that had become tired and dated.
And, according to Coun John Hudson, chairman of the planning portfolio which includes the market, a strategic review that will drive the development of the town centre has the market at its heart.
Coun Hudson said the council was looking at how it could enhance and expand the market and increase footfall in the town centre.
An unsuccessful bid to become a Mary Portas town set the ball rolling. It led to
the formation of “Love Ormskirk” and a commitment from the council to address the issues affecting the town centre.
“We recognise the vital importance of the market to this town,” Coun Hudson said. “It is now the challenge of bringing all the different elements together including resolving traffic issues and efforts to develop more
accommodation for students in the centre of town and boost the night economy.”
Enhancing the food element is seen as key to the future of the market. And Steven Wilson, the markets officer, and market superintendent Neil Lloyd-Knapman, are confident this can be achieved. Both are optimistic that the council’s focus on improving the market will pay dividends.
“The improvement work caused some disruption, but we were able to keep all the traders together, and we now have a useful event square in Moor Street which we hope to develop into a street food area,” Steven said.
The market has centuries of history and tradition behind it, which means the locals flock into town on a Thursday and Saturday.
Tourists are also discovering Ormskirk market.
Neil said: “We get coaches in the better months. The coach companies bring people here in the morning for a browse around the market, then the go on to Southport where they spend the afternoon.”
Ormskirk has plenty of quirky traditions it could promote. The town has a strong association with homemade gingerbread.

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