Accrington Indoor Market Hall Redevelopment
Councillor Paul Cox, Deputy Leader of the Council, reported on proposals to change within part of the indoor Market Hall from traditional market stall traders to a social hub incorporating multiple small kitchens and other outlets offering a variety of different food styles and drinks together with communal seating.
Councillor Marlene Haworth raised some concerns about the suggestion of developing a food hall and a social hub. She reminded Members that a food outlet venture established not too long ago in the Arndale Centre had not been successful. The lack of significant footfall in the town centre could be a barrier to any future aspirations around a food offer. In addition, there were already several other restaurants and pubs in the centre which provided low cost food. She advised caution around the proposals and asked if there was a ‘Plan B’. She also enquired if the vision was set in stone.
The Leader of the Council commented that development of the project represented a large investment in officer time. However, the Town Hall, Market Hall and shop frontages were the jewel in the crown in Accrington and could be a real draw for visitors. At this stage the vision for the market was not set in stone. The Pilot Team would be able to work on what was Accrington’s niche role and would enable the Council to write the case to the right people in Government about the investment needed. A consensus would be required.
Councillor P Cox reiterated that the purpose of the report was not to implement a solution, but to begin the dialogue to identify options and to help find a solution.
Approval of the report was not a key decision.
Reason for Decision
Due to the continued pressures from reduced footfall, on-line shopping and out of town centre retail centres/supermarkets, it is recognised that there is an overcapacity of stall/units within the indoor market hall, with current occupancy levels running at around 55%.
Continuing the traditional market model across the whole ground floor is no longer economically sustainable and it is the Leader’s and Portfolio Holder’s wish to consider the redeveloped of part of the indoor market hall to create a social hub with commercial retail units serving food and drinks. The development of a social hub will hopefully increase footfall levels in the Market Hall, Blackburn Road shops and newly refurbished town centre square.
There are a number of successful examples of venues which have been redeveloped to serve food and drink across the North, such as Altringham, Manchester, Chester, Preston, Durham, Warrington and other authorities such as Southport and Wigan are considering similar schemes for their market/historic buildings. Chester is probably most similar to the Council’s vision, with half of their market building still operating traditional market stalls.
The success of venues like these is based on offering diners different styles of food, (typically limited to around 6 to 8 choices from each commercial retail kitchen), similarly priced across the other kitchens. The businesses are not high street brands or franchises but usually local/regional chefs wanting to start a business or open up more outlets where they already have a local following. Some venues also keep a kitchen vacant to provide ‘one off’ / pop up type events. Food styles may have some local references but there are a range of options, from wood fired pizza to quality burgers, fish, Thai/Mexican, traditional pie and mash, vegetarian/vegan alongside coffee/baked goods, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Dawnvale Group are a very experienced design and project management company working within the hospitality and leisure industry and have undertaken similar commercial retail work inside historic buildings, involving Local Authorities and their appointment as Design/Project Manager will enable the Council to draw on their contacts/design experience, in-house industrial electrical and mechanical design engineers which could bring advantages with regards to value for money and managing all elements, rather than seeking quotes from separate architectural, electrical and mechanical engineering design companies.
The Council will also have to determine how the new food and drink outlets / social hub will be managed. At this stage officers envisage that this part of the Market Hall could be leased to a single provider who will then take responsibility for commercially letting the individual outlets and managing the social hub. Another option is that the Council could appoint somebody to manage the outlets and social hub on the Council’s behalf, but with the outlets being directly let by the Council to the individual traders. Alternatively, the Council could employ its own staff to manage the day to day operation of social hub and lease arrangements direct with the traders. The implications and costs of each approach have yet to be fully evaluated and this process will be assisted by discussions with any interested parties.
Whilst there continues to be ongoing discussion with the market traders, if the project is approved by Cabinet, there may be a small number of existing tenants who do not wish to be part of the new social hub and therefore may need relocating to other areas within the redesigned Market Hall.
Cabinet is also considering a redevelopment proposal to reduce overcapacity by removing the pavilion/canopy and stone kiosks on Peel Street to provide additional town centre parking. This car parking will be directly outside the Market Hall and can only help attract customers to the proposed social hub and wider town centre businesses.
Alternative Options considered and Reasons for Rejection
The Council could continue to promote the Market Hall operating traditional market stalls but this has been rejected as shopping habits have fundamentally changed. There is insufficient demand to achieve anywhere near 100% occupancy levels and there is a strong political wish to see part of the building redeveloped as a social hub.
Resolved (1) That Cabinet approves in principal, a proposal to change an area within the indoor Market Hall, (the end facing onto the new town square) from traditional market stalls to food kitchens and drink outlets with communal seating; and
(2) That Cabinet agrees to waive the Council’s contract procedures rules and authorises the Executive Director (Environment) following consultation with the Portfolio Holder responsible for the Markets to appoint Dawnvale Group, Albert House, Albert Street, Hollinwood, Manchester to produce a concept scheme and a realistic project budget estimate; and
(3) That Cabinet delegates authority to the Executive Director (Environment) following consultation with the Executive Director (Legal & Democratic Services) to engage in discussions with third parties interested in leasing or managing the social hub commercial retail kitchens and drink outlets; and
(4) That Cabinet request a further report with budget project costs and lease / management options for consideration at a later date.