TENSIONS BETWEEN FARMERS' MARKETS
AND OLDER MARKETS
63. Though the benefits of farmers' markets are widely
recognised, there is continuing tension over the position of farmers'
markets within the markets sector. There is an ongoing debate
about whether farmers' markets detract from or enhance older markets,
and whether they can integrate with them, or should be separate
from them. FARMA argued strongly in favour of keeping farmers'
markets separate, arguing that their unique selling points are
diluted when they are combined with older markets. As Gareth Jones
put it to us, "we feel quite passionately that if you confuse
[farmers' markets] with brought-in products [sold at ordinary
markets] which could have come from any source whatsoever it makes
the message we are delivering at farmers' markets not easy to
pick out when you are walking through the market itself."
Patricia Grey, Fareham Town Centre Manager, also favoured separation,
arguing that specialist and farmers markets "do not integrate
with regular street markets, either from the traders' or the customers'
a point of view also endorsed by the Western International Market
Jonathan Owen pointed to a tension between ordinary market traders
and specialist market traders arising from the subsidy of the
latter by the council.
64. The National Retail Planning Forum (NRPF) also
acknowledged that "there is a problem with the integration
of new farmers markets within existing markets", suggesting
that "often this is because of resistance from existing traders,
such as in Leeds market or more often from the operators of farmers
markets who want to retain a distinct identity".
The NRPF, though, drew a different conclusion, arguing that "with
many markets in need of an injection of new traders and products,
it probably makes sense to try and integrate new markets within
existing structures where they exist."
Similarly, St Albans Council argued that "as long as there
is a transparency as to what the specialist market is being charged
and the rules and regulations are the same then the integration
can be successful." For St Albans, integration on farmers'
market days widens the attraction of the market, increases footfall
and creates more 'linger longer' time. Crucially, "when there
is an opportunity to combine the two together then the traditional
market is opened to a new customer group."
Michael Felton added a caveat, observing that the regular market
and farmers' market in St Albans were on opposite sides of the
street, clearly near each other but with "no sign of integration".
65. Other evidence also pointed to either the successful
integration of the two types of market, or at least successful
proximity. Vale Royal Borough Council felt that specialist markets
need to be close to the existing regular market for both to benefit
from increased footfall.
Derby City Council "believed that overall they [farmers'
markets] do attract trade to the adjacent Market and bring in
additional revenue for the Council as well"
and Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea councils were similarly
relaxed, observing that farmers' markets in their localities were
successful both in isolation and when integrated with an existing
market. The latter observed that when an occasional farmers' market
came to Portobello Road market "there was no objection from
the Portobello traders to the specialty market because it filled
unused space and increased footfall for the whole of the market.
66. Available statistical evidence, though not conclusive,
is supportive of integration. A survey undertaken by Action for
Market Towns of their membershipmarket towns with a population
of between 3,000 and 30,000revealed that:
From the cohort that indicated their town held 'New'
markets such as Farmers, Continental and Arts and Crafts, 54%
stated that these had been successfully integrated with the older
markets. Responses from the 41% who did not feel that the new
markets had successfully been integrated centred on the lack of
a previous market to integrate with and 'New' and 'Old' markets
being operated in different locations.
We see no reason why farmers' markets
should not retain their identity within a larger 'ordinary' market,
and can see advantages for both types of markets in terms of increasing
footfall and creating more of an event feel. We recommend, therefore,
that local authorities actively consider the benefits of co-location,
though we accept that this may not always be appropriate.
67. A further source of tension between older markets
and farmers' markets stems from the ability of local councils
with Charter markets to prevent any other marketincluding
occasional farmers' marketsfrom operating within a six
mile radius. In its evidence Leicestershire Food Links Ltd, a
not for profit social enterprise which runs five farmers' markets
in Leicestershire, complained that "several councils and
independent Charter holders within Leicestershire strictly operate
Market Charters with or without Rival Markets Policies which stop
new markets evolving."
Their main criticism was not that their applications were being
turned down per se, but rather that the Charter fees proposed
by the Charter-holding councils to sanction the creation of new
occasional markets were prohibitively high. Their plea was for
greater flexibility on behalf of councils to give them the opportunity
to promote local food.
68. This source of tension was also acknowledged
by other evidence, including the Government, which observed that
"in a few areas, there have been tensions between supporters
of farmers' markets and existing charter markets, with the former
arguing, for example, that the existence of charter markets has
prevented the establishment of a farmers' market in a particular
the Government's rather anodyne response to this issue saw "no
reason why farmers' markets and charter markets cannot co-exist
happily", as explained to us during our visit to Leicester
by Leicester City Councillors there can be a problem of market
viability when too many markets compete for custom in too small
an area. They felt that the absence of Charter powers in London
had led to the creation of too many non-viable markets there.
We acknowledge that the
use of market Charters to regulate market numbers is a complex
issue, but believe that it is one that locally-elected councils
are best placed to adjudicate on. We would though recommend that
councils treat farmers' markets applications sympathetically given
the potential benefits they can offer whether in proximity to
existing markets or in isolation. We also recommend that account
be taken of the status of the organisation wishing to run a farmers'
market, and that consideration be given to reducing fees in the
event that the organisation is a not-for-profit organisation with
clearly articulated social goals.