MOVING stalls from South Shields Market Place to the centre of town will create a retail ‘feel-good factor’, it has been claimed.
Plans have been revealed to move traders into King Street and Barrington Street – on the square outside Lloyds Bank – while nearby Wouldhave House is demolished later this year.
The plan was met with a positive reaction when members of the South Tyneside Council’s jobs and enterprise select committee met yesterday.
Members spoke of a ‘double whammy’ effect, claiming existing town centre retailers could benefit from the presence of the market traders – and vice versa.
But enthusiasm for the scheme was only on the proviso that, once a new development is created on the Wouldhave site, the market traders would return.
The committee chairman, Coun Rob Dix, Labour representative for Harton, said: “We must put the market back in its rightful place at that time – and that is back on the square.”
Councillors were told research had shown that income rises for retailers in King Street on market days – Monday, Friday and Saturday.
Coun Eileen Leask, Labour councillor for Horsley Hill, added: “I think putting the stalls in King Street is an absolutely brilliant idea.
“Putting them right in the heart of the town will create a feel-good factor.”
Colin Kennedy, the council’s central services manager, admitted the switch would create a ‘logistical nightmare’.
He said: “We will need to ensure there is a sufficient gap between the shops and the market stalls, that delivery vans can get access to the shops and that the market holders can put their stalls up.”
The market now offers more than 108 stalls, and Mr Kennedy outlined the measures being taken to revive its fortunes.
These include reducing the daily stallholder rent from £26.50 to £15 – that has seen the number of stalls in the market place rise by 10 per cent.
But it also means the cash generated for the council has fallen by 25 per cent, and a new review of the prices is being carried out.
Coun Dix added: “If the rents rise again, I would like it to take place in stages. I wouldn’t want it to go straight back up to £26.50. We also recommend that the switch to King Street is for the short to medium term, not as a permanent move.”
The committee was told the fortunes of the market rely heavily on a ‘number of variables’, most notably the weather. In the winter of 2010/11, trade was decimated by snow and ice, leading to calls for a covered market.
Additionally, stallholders have also been affected by an increase in competition, most notably discount and ‘pound’ shops.
Labour’s John Wood, for Beacon and Bents, added: “We have looked at the market year after year, and we have never really found an answer to the problems it faces.
“We have lost family businesses in King Street, and the Market Place is going the same way.”