Market Failure?: Can the traditional market survive? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

8  Conclusion

136. The market experience is a unique one, and we are pleased that a range of different types of market up and down the country are keeping the market tradition alive and vibrant in the twenty first century.

137. We are excited by the range of benefits that markets are bringing to local towns and communities. First and foremost, markets stand or fail by the attractiveness of the alternative retail experience that they offer customers. We have seen for ourselves that markets continue to provide value for money as well as providing job opportunities, both at the market and as an indirect consequence of the increased footfall that they bring into town centres.

138. But we believe it is important to stress that markets also offer a range of non-economic benefits. Most importantly, and harder to quantify, markets act to bring communities together and as a social focus that fosters a shared identity and helps create a town's character. In addition, markets have a role to play in promoting local and national agendas around regeneration, health and the environment.

139. We want more markets to thrive, and to fulfil their potential to deliver these benefits. We know though that the challenges they face are increasing, particularly as a result of increasing competition but also because of local authority and industry 'own goals', such as a failure to invest so that markets are enhanced in line with customer expectations, poor planning decisions which have sidelined some markets, poor management and a reluctance to adapt to change.

140. Nevertheless. we believe that the obstacles to future market success can, in many cases, be overcome. There are lessons to be learned both from elsewhere in Europe and from existing best practice in England. We want local authorities who are responsible for markets to develop plans that consider the long-term sustainability of their markets. We want them to explore how their markets can complement and act in sympathy with the wider town centre and local communities, and to make town centre planning decisions within this context. We want them to designate market champions and to invest in and promote their markets, looking where possible to take advantage of prudent borrowing and to attract Government, private sector and third sector funding to deliver shared goals through markets. We are encouraged that a number of local authorities are already doing this.

141. Particularly with regard to smaller councils running local markets, where the future is often most precarious, we want councils to have a clear strategic vision of how they intend to secure the long-term sustainability of their markets. Where in-house expertise is lacking, we want councils to investigate alternative means of bringing in management experience, including private sector market operators, and entering into a partnership relationship with other councils, sharing market champions and market operators.

142. We believe the current legislative situation with regard to London markets is unsustainable, and urge local authorities and the Government to come up with more flexible legislation that allows local authorities to develop a strategic vision for their markets.

143. We want Government to take greater heed of the strategic context to traditional retail markets. We do not expect or advocate routine Government intervention in this sector—local authorities, working in partnership with industry, clearly have the leading role—but it should be more engaged in the big picture. Its strategic planning documents should more fully reflect all the contributions that markets make to town centres, and there should be a clear lead Government department—CLG—that local authorities and the industry can turn to when they have wider strategic concerns, for instance about legislation and national promotion of markets. Finally, we believe that markets have the potential to play a fuller role in supporting a range of national Government objectives, and urge CLG to take the lead role in ensuring that this potential is realised.

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