Preston’s struggling Market Hall is to see a boost with a new canopy to make it warmer and its rents slashed.
The city council says it will be enhancing Preston’s flagship market with “significant investment”, while also cutting the rent for traders by 30 per cent.
It comes after councillors unanimously voted through the measures at full council yesterday.
Sam Livesey (inset), chairman of the Traders Association at Preston Markets, said: “We welcome the news that the council have taken the points outlined in our letter seriously. We now look forward to sharing these new proposals with traders and hearing their views.”
Morale among traders has dipped in the past months as one by one stall holders abandoned their units.
They complained that the cold, high rents and drop in footfall because of building work, was rendering the Market was unsustainable. As a result the association sent the council a letter with a list of demands in May.
Now the 30 per cent drop in rent for traders, announced yesterday, is set to be fixed for three years - from April 1, 2019 until March 31, 2022.
A council spokesman said: “This rent relief will allow existing traders to develop their businesses and new traders to establish themselves in a revitalised Market Hall, which in turn, will enable Preston Markets as a whole to thrive.”
Meanwhile a major capital investment scheme to improve the temperature within the Market Hall was also agreed - although a definite figure is not yet known.
However it would include installing canopies over the internal walkways at the height of the stall roofs “to improve the environment throughout the year and ensure it is a more comfortable temperature for customers and traders”.
Coun Robert Boswell, cabinet member for Environment at the city’s authority, said: “The rent reductions will enable current businesses to grow and potential new businesses to establish themselves in the Market Hall.
“The installation of the walkway canopies will improve the ambient temperature within the Market Hall, while still being able to view the historic 1875 canopy.
“We have a market full of excellent products – freshly made food and drinks, accessories, produce, fresh meat and an amazing selection of cheese – and we need Prestonians to support these local businesses and enjoy what Preston Markets has to offer.”
Since the opening of the Market Hall in February 2018, the council says it has been “acutely aware” of the issues that traders have faced.
However, a spokesman said: “Given the complex nature of the structure and canopies, it has taken considerable time to examine potential options and come to a viable solution.”
Timescales for the project are currently being negotiated, but it is the council’s intention to start as soon as possible.
Various incentives for traders are also on offer, including an initial free rent period for new tenants and negotiations with current traders looking to expand.
Coun Matthew Brown, leader of the council, said: “In a time of continued austerity, with more uncertainty ahead, the cabinet members at Preston City Council have taken the decision to invest significantly more resources in the Market Hall.
“This budget could have been allocated towards another council priority, but the success of the markets is and always will be of high importance to the council.”
The council says it understands that the traders sought a 50 per cent rent reduction but, it feels that a 30 per cent rent reduction combined with significant investment in the canopy walkways is a “fair and generous offer”.