Agenda item

Market Operations

An opportunity to consider and discuss an update on Market Operations and what this entails.


The Panel took the opportunity to consider Market operations, what these were, how these should be delivered and what could be done to make the most of this asset so as to ensure the markets in Dorchester would be viable and a successful attraction. They were pleased to hear from Grant Jones – on behalf of the Cornhill market traders – about what was happening in Cornhill; how things were being done there and what his experiences – and those of other traders - were.


Given the limitations in being able to run the market as had been done prior to

the pandemic, trade - in terms of sales, browsing and passing trade – had all

been curtailed significantly over the recent months. Whilst this was generally

understandable, every effort had continued to be made to ensure what trade

possible was maintained, with social distancing rules being applied. Despite

the hardships experienced, there was still a keen appetite for pitches when

these became available. Mr Jones had met with officers to see how best the Cornhill market could be run, what might be offered and where best this might be situated.


Options for how this market – and Dorchester markets generally – could

remain vibrant and viable going forward were considered and where any

expansion might be able to be accommodated and how this might be done.


The Panel saw this as welcomed news and, in recognising how popular the

Cornhill market was, were pleased to see that there had been some resurgence in trade and interest now a degree of normality had returned. They acknowledged there was a loyal and dedicated patronage of the stalls and saw no reason why his shouldn’t continue to thrive into the future. The Panel thanked Mr Jones for his valued contribution and continuing positive approach.


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 presentation 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 continue to 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 forward. What was being done at Bridport Market in bringing about its success was worth looking into.


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  the pandemic had provided the opportunity 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 again  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.


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.


The Panel considered that, in the circumstances, what was being proposed was as practicable as it could be in managing the way in which the markets operated and in them being prepared to meet future needs and trends.