Select Committee on Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)

Wednesday 12 May 2004


60. MR TURNER: Not none but it was a very small number, and the majority of the dwellings there were tied to the premises, so pubs and things.

61. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: Do you think there is a realistic possibility that any of the freeholders in this area may not be fully aware of your proposals?

62. MR TURNER: It is certainly not impossible. It has, obviously, been advertised in the London Gazette, so large freeholders would be aware.

63. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: But smaller ones may not be.

64. MR TURNER: Smaller ones may not, that is true.

65. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: The other thing that concerns me slightly is the suggestion - and I think the Joint Committee says they think there probably will be issues under Article 8(1) - that the interference would be justifiable under Article 8(2), namely the overriding public interest. I can see that there could be an overriding public interest but for the fact that the Council is proposing to deal exclusively with a co-operative of the existing market traders and there was a proposal to put the thing out to tender. In the majority of private interests being considered in this, to what extent is there an overriding public interest?

66. MR THOMPSON: I think we need there to distinguish between the management of the market and the operation of it in the public interest. The Council takes the view, as has happened to date, that it is good management and efficient to out-source the management. So that is the issue. The question then is: how do you out-source it? Do you out-source it on a competitive tendering basis or not? In this instance it did contemplate that. There was, rightly or wrongly, a substantial degree of public disquiet expressed about it and, therefore, for the Council to resolve that, in seeking to listen to the voices of the area, they have said "We will negotiate with the market traders about a new contract." That is still on the basis of delivering Best Value. Perhaps I can ask Mr Chippendale to comment on that. The intention is to provide for management of the market in the best interests of the community. That would be the Council's position on that. Is that right?

67. MR CHIPPENDALE: Yes, that is correct. We will still be following the same line as we would have taken had we been going out to competitive tender, in that we would have appointed agents who will be drawing up the specification for how we wish to see the market developed and managed. Having got to that stage we are now offering the existing co-operative the opportunity to demonstrate to us that they can meet those targets and objectives. If they can then we are quite happy for them to run the market; if they are unable to do so then we will grant a competitive tender.

68. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: What sort of financial benefit would accrue to the Council as a result of this? Have you made some estimates?

69. MR CHIPPENDALE: I have not, to be perfectly honest, but obviously we, as a Council will need to demonstrate that we are getting best consideration, and any financial offer made to us we will have to consider and make sure that that is acceptable.

70. JOHN AUSTIN: Is your argument that the management of the market is irrelevant, or superfluous, to the provisions of the Bill?

71. MR THOMPSON: We believe that it is, yes. The Bill does not seek to make arrangements for the management of the market, merely the facility to overcome the difficulty of running the market on an expanded basis on those highways. The management of the market with or without this Bill proceeds as a separate issue. We have not sought to address that in the Bill. If I can come back to the finance point, can I invite Mr Chippendale or Mr Turner to indicate the degree of investment that the Council has made in the market? It is a public facility, if you like, which is viewed as of value and benefit to the community and in revitalising the town centre. It is not a milk cow, if you like; there has had to be a degree of investment. Is that right?

72. MR CHIPPENDALE: That is correct. It is an on-going investment. Obviously there are infrastructure issues, under the highway, to provide electricity. We are, as part of a further scheme, looking to bring the Town Hall back into use as a public building, and as part of that redevelopment we are looking to provide washing facilities for the market in that position. I do not know the exact cost but it is not an insubstantial amount.

73. MR TURNER: The other thing worth mentioning is that we have also paid for a whole set of new stalls which, although they may not look substantial, are not inexpensive.

74. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: Does the market make a profit for the town?

75. MR CHIPPENDALE: We receive a fee. The Council receives a net fee.

76. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: Does that exceed your costs?


78. SIR JOHN BUTTERFILL: I would like to pursue these matters a little further, if I may, Chairman. I am not entirely convinced about the public interest, except that it may benefit other traders. What does concern me is that it is very easy nowadays to identify all the freeholders from the Land Registry; you just pay a fee - £25 or whatever it is - draw a line round all that lot, you send it off, you get it back and you write to them. Why did you not write to all the freeholders? Why did you not take that elementary precaution?

79. MR TURNER: We asked the occupiers to pass it on to the freeholders, which I accept is not the same as writing to the Land Registry, but Ipswich has not been a compulsory registration area for such a long time that, necessarily, every piece of land would be registered.

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