THE FUTURE of Hemsworth and South Elmsall’s markets is set to be decided next week.
Wakefield Council’s cabinet will decide whether to start negotiations to sell the land or transfer the running of the sites to another organisation when they meet next Tuesday.
Both markets were deemed to be ‘non-core’ in a council report, because Hemsworth Market is losing money and concerns over occupancy rates and high maintenance costs at South Elmsall Market.
If agreed, markets will be handed to other organisations, such as town councils, to run, or sold if no interest is received. Developers have already shown interest in the two sites, the report said.
There is an option to retain the status quo, but the report advises against it.
Councillor David Dagger, cabinet member responsible for markets, said: “We know how valuable markets are to local communities but it is a sad fact that trade has dropped off at some markets since the recession and we need to ensure we are providing value for money.
“The council is faced with taking some very tough decisions due to the financial situation we find ourselves in. We are looking at whether non-core markets could be delivered more sustainably in the future.”
The council will meet with Hemsworth Town Council later this month to discuss the proposals, and South Elmsall Town Council met with the local authority six weeks ago.
Councillor Bryan Capstick, deputy leader of South Elmsall Town Council, said they will strongly oppose any prospect of closure because the town comes to life on market days.
He said: “The facility is key to generating job opportunities, providing economic opportunity and a social active public space.”
Figures taken from April to December 2010 show South Elmsall market has 304 stalls in total for the three markets it runs a week - a 57 per cent occupancy rate. Hemsworth has 119 for its three markets – 44 per cent occupancy.
Sharon Dunn, a confectionery trader at South Elmsall market, said the council should have thought about the markets before they allowed planning permission for Tesco and other supermarkets.
Her stall traded on Hemsworth market for 22 years but was forced to move to South Elmsall due of lack of profit after the superstore was built. She said: “That’s what is killing off the trade.”
Margaret Bowen, 80, is a regular to South Elmsall’s market said it would be a disaster if the market closed.
She said: “I am in a scooter and this is the only way I can do my shopping. I would lose my independence if I could not come here because I have difficulty getting in and out of shops. It is not only a market, it is a meeting place for the community.”
Barrie Kellock, 65, has traded on Hemsworth Market for 15 years. He said: “We have not been told anything. Someone from the council came around six weeks ago and handed out leaflets saying there had been rumours of closure but said it was business as usual. I would hope they would re-site us into town where there are more people.”