Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)|
Wednesday 12 May 2004
MR PAUL THOMPSON of BIRCHAM DYSON BELL appeared as
1. CHAIRMAN: Good afternoon, Mr Thompson.
2. MR THOMPSON: Good afternoon, Madam
3. CHAIRMAN: The Clerk will proceed to
read the title of the Bill. Before that I will go through the
process of introducing myself and my colleagues. I am Sylvia
Heal, I have the privilege of chairing this Committee this afternoon.
On my immediate left is Mr Peter Bottomley, and we have also
Sir John Butterfill and John Austin. On my immediate right we
have Speaker's Counsel.
4. MR THOMPSON: Thank you, Madam. My
name is Paul Thompson, from Bircham Dyson Bell, the Parliamentary
Agent to the Bill. Can I introduce the two representatives from
Ipswich Borough Council straightaway? I have with me Paul Chippendale,
who is Head of Economic Development and Property, and Paul Turner,
the Corporate Legal Adviser and Monitoring Officer for Ipswich.
5. As you know, this Bill is promoted by Ipswich
Borough Council and concerns the market.
6. CHAIRMAN: I wonder if I could just
ask you to pause so that the Clerk can read the title of the Bill,
and then we can go into it.
7. THE CLERK: Ipswich Market Bill.
8. MR THOMPSON: That is indeed the Bill
I was going to speak to. Can I begin by circulating a photo and
two plans? (Same handed) The photo shows the market in
operation at the centre of Ipswich, and you will find two plans
which I have put behind the photo. The first plan shows the square
in the middle of the town centre and there is a strange shape
within the square which is the current market. The dark delineated
line encompasses the existing square and the streets that are
the subject of this Bill. We have also given you a further plan;
this has got a lot of lines on it but its only purpose is to show
you the existing position of the stallholders' stalls in front
of the Town Hall.
9. If you go back to the picture, you can see
the stalls with their brightly coloured awnings; that is the Grade
II listed Town Hall behind it and the Grade II Post Office building,
which is no longer a post office. That is in the historic centre
10. The purpose of the Bill, as I believe you
are aware, is to make new provision for the regulation of the
market in Ipswich. In particular, it would enable the market
to be expanded onto land that is currently part of the highway
in these streets that are referred to in the Bill. Parliamentary
authority is needed for this expansion because holding a market
on a public highway without statutory authority is liable to be
taken to infringe the public right to pass along the highway and
could constitute a number of offences under the Highways Act 1980.
11. The Council's right to hold a market in this
instance derives from a Royal Charter granted by Edward II in
1317, which was confirmed by a further Charter granted by Henry
VII in 1518. The Charters, it seems, codified the basis upon
which a market could be held in Ipswich and the associated privileges
with that which, it appears, can be traced back to Saxon times.
In exercise of those powers, the Council holds a craft market
and general provisions market, as they are called, at a small
site in Cornhill, as shown in that photograph, in the town centre,
and it moved there in May 2002 after a plan to move the market
to a proposed shopping centre fell through. The market has had
a number of locations but before it moved to Cornhill in 2002
it had been at the Civic Centre car park for about 18 years, which
holds the main local authority offices just to the west of the
12. The market currently comprises 10 stalls
that operate under the Royal Charter, supplemented by 9 street
trading licences on adjacent highways. Market days are Tuesdays,
Fridays and Saturdays, with extra days at Christmas and Easter,
but the standard operation is a three-day market.
13. A company owned by the regular stallholders
presently operates the market. It took over this role on the
insolvency of the previous market operator in 2001. Whilst I
think this does not directly relate to the content of the Bill
it may be helpful to your Committee if I also mention that there
has been a little bit of local controversy about the management
of the market lately, which may have come to your attention.
The Council had proposed to put the management of the market -
not the market itself but the management of the market - out to
competitive tender in accordance with general market testing principles
and pursuant to its duty to deliver Best Value, as it is called
in local government terms. This was intended to be entirely without
prejudice to the continuing role of the stallholders in running
the market, but perhaps naturally it did cause a considerable
degree of concern amongst the existing stallholders who felt it
might affect their livelihoods, and a petition was got up and
there was a degree of local contention about this.
14. Happily that has now been resolved and the
Council has agreed to open negotiations with the existing market
trading company, run by the stallholders, with a view to entering
into a new contract with them, and these negotiations are being
held on an exclusive basis. So whilst there has been a degree
of contention on that part that may have come to your attention
- and Council representatives can tell you more about this - the
general position is that we believe that has been resolved.
15. Returning to more general issues, the relocation
of the market in 2000 and the current arrangements for it were
always intended as a temporary measure, pending the expansion
of the market. Advice from market consultants, Michael Felton
Associates, had indicated to the Council that in order to ensure
the market's viability and its continued running there needs to
be space for approximately 40 stalls to provide for a competitive
mix of traders. Presently, as I have advised, the market comprises
only 19 stalls. A public consultation was carried out by the
Council in 2003 and this overwhelmingly supported the retention
of the market on its current site in Cornhill and, in fact, no
alternative sites have been found in Ipswich that are readily
available. So the only realistic option for the expansion of
the market is for the council to expand it on to the adjoining
highways. This requires, as I have explained, the authority for
the Bill now before you.
16. You might wonder why the Council does not
instead just continue and expand the existing arrangements for
granting street trading licences and consents. Such licences
and consents are, however, simply individual consents and do not
allow the market to be managed and regulated as a whole. So there
is a management company to manage the market but the Council cannot
devolve its street trading authority to the market company. If
the market is to be managed as a whole it does need to be expanded
in this way and there are also other difficulties with street
trader licences in terms of highway obstruction and related matters
in the non-pedestrianised streets. So that is the basis upon
which the Council resolved that it was necessary to expand the
franchise market on its existing site and into the adjoining highways.
17. Broadly speaking, the scheme of the Bill
is to enable the Council to designate any of the highways which
are listed in the Schedule to the Bill as market highways, following
a process of notification and consultation under the Bill. Once
this has been done, the Council would be entitled to hold the
market on those highways. The Council would also have ancillary
powers to make orders regulating traffic on the market highways
while the market is operating.
18. No petitions have been deposited against
the Bill, there are no departmental reports in relation to the
Bill and the Bill received an unopposed Second Reading.
19. It may assist - and I can explain this in
some detail - if I say something about the position on human rights.
Would that help?