Thereâ€™s been a sense of anxiety amongst town centre traders and the public about the future of Bridgend Market, but BCBC has finally published its turnaround plan (pdf).
BCBC currently have a 99-year leasehold on the market (which runs until 2071), and the terms of the lease require that the rent for market traders is reviewed roughly every 14 years, with the next review due in 2021.
The market currently costs Â£360,000 a year to run, but due to a large number of vacant stalls (said to be a whopping 44%+), income from traders has fallen to such an extent that the market now has an annual Â£193,000 deficit.
The relatively high rents (compared to town centre shops and similar markets) and high vacancy rates have been cited by former traders as their main reasons for leaving.
A temporary rent-rebate ran from December 2017-March 2018 but thatâ€™s now over. Watts & Morgan â€“ who were tasked with marketing vacant stalls â€“ marketed them at 70% of the current rent. However, three more stalls closed and another Â£37,000 in income was lost.
Although the report didnâ€™t say this, the numbers are so bad itâ€™s safe to say Bridgend Market is under threat. Officers did, however, emphasise the need for â€œradical and prompt actionâ€� on rents and other issues in order to secure the marketâ€™s future.
The proposals are:
- Rents for current stalls will be cut by 25% until April 2020.
- Rents for vacant stalls are cut by 48% in order to attract new stallholders.
- Aim for 85% stall occupancy.
- A new round of investment including: new signs and marketing, reposition and proper display of the market bell, install air curtains on the market doors to make it more comfortable in winter.
- Removing some of the empty stalls in the centre of the market to create an â€œinternal squareâ€�, which could be used for childrenâ€™s play equipment/rides, cultural events, pop-up stalls and craft fairs.
- Work with traders to put together a regular series of market events.
- Stall leases will be more flexible to enable stallholders to experiment with offering new services and products; this could mean more competition as stalls will be allowed to sell goods and services that are already provided by other stalls.
The proposals are designed to stabilise the current situation and put it on a stronger long-term footing, with rents likely to gradually increase as stall occupancy increases â€“ but officers admit that the market will continue running on a loss of between Â£130,000- Â£160,000 a year for several years.