Agenda item

The future of Dorchester Markets

To receive a report by the Town Clerk on what options there are for the future of Dorchester Markets.


The Panel considered what options there were for the future of Dorchester markets - in terms of trading activities; locations; popularity and footfall; access; legal and contractual commitments and obligations; and cultural and social community considerations - with a report from the Town Clerk facilitating this discussion and the panels understanding.


The fundamentals of the market – its purpose, its heritage and its legacy – and what it had to offer to the town in terms of economic, social and civic benefits together with how it had been managed, how it was being managed and what visions there were for its future, were all considerations.


As a market town, of the County Town, it was something of which to be rightly

proud and was considered an asset in providing an opportunity for traders, a boost for the local economy and was a business seedbed. The Panel understood they all played their part in attracting footfall locally and from visitors afar and acted as a means of social service - providing value for money goods that were not necessarily able to be sourced by other means. It was community focused, vibrant and stimulated local contact, being adaptable in reflecting changing needs and trends.


The Panel appreciated having the opportunity to be able to review of issues considering that, as well as the economic benefits to be gained, the social and welfare benefits of the market were of considerable value too.

Whatever options were available, it was accepted that the markets should be invigorated so as to provide something unique and relevant to the customer of today, to meet their expectations - were that be more street food outlets, demonstrations or heritage exhibitions.


This would go a long way to ensuring their viability was maintained

and gave a valid reason for people to continue to visit it in the numbers

previously seen. It was accepted that the pandemic had seriously affected

what could be done in the recent past, but they saw no reason why this trend

couldn’t be reversed going forward.


Consideration would be given to the differing scenarios and various options with regard to trade, performance and management of the different market entities, in identifying and assessing how this could be best achieved so as to

serve as some basis for how the markets could operate successfully going



The Panel acknowledged the benefits of what the markets brought to Dorchester and what they each had to offer in their own way, not only as an entity – as a means of trading goods, services and  produce which might not otherwise be readily accessible directly between suppliers and public - but their wider value and contribution too, in attracting visitors to the town and as a social and community asset. Moreover, in being an historic market town, the essence of maintaining a viable and successful market was critical to the fabric and vitality of Dorchester.


Issues for consideration would be how the markets operated; how they could best adapt to meet the needs of today’s consumer; what the means of doing this would be; what arrangements were necessary to achieve this; what rental, licencing and contractual arrangements were necessary to secure their continuation; and how they could improve their efficiency to ensure viability was maintained.


Most importantly the Panel wanted to see them successful and continue contributing to the economy of the town and be seen as a social and community asset for years to come and there was a considerable will to see these valued assets succeed.


It was considered that with the backdrop of the pandemic, now was the right time to reassess and re calibrate what was being done and the process for doing it. Whilst the principles on what to do, how to do it and, where it should be done were accepted, it was recognised that there was a need for any further detailed discussion at this stage should be held by a Working Group in confidential session so that finances and commercial contract arrangements could be discussed, whilst respecting the sensitivities of this. This would allow Members to increase their understanding of the current position and to express a view on which of the options for managing the market should be examined in more detail. This, in turn, would allow officers to gather evidence to answer Member questions and develop options that might be considered more formally at a future meeting. It would also allow a more detailed proposal to be discussed when Dorset Council commenced its Asset Review programme.


An assurance was given that whatever options were considered, there would be a need for this to go through a formal decision process – in a public forum setting – with no decisions being taken discretely. For now, those options would be considered and assessed, with any recommendations being then formally considered by both the Town Council and Dorset Council before any implementation was considered.



That the future of the Dorchester markets be noted and the principles behind what was trying to be achieved accepted with any Working Group consideration and assessment of options being formally recommended to Dorchester Town Council and Dorset Council for their consideration and, as necessary, implementation.


Reason for Decision

To ensure the transparent governance of the assessment and decision making process.





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