Memorandum by City of Westminster Council
City of Westminster Council is pleased to offer
evidence to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee
enquiry on Traditional Retail Markets. Our response is structured
around the question set out in the original notice of the inquiry
and call for evidence.
Markets play a vital role within our
The rise of specialist markets is a good
sign of the continued vitality of markets, especially in Westminster.
The City of Westminster Bill is a vital
piece of legislation in order to rebalance the relationship between
the local authority and traders.
City of Westminster Council is happy
to facilitate any visit to its local markets the committee would
like to see.
How has the picture changed over the last 10 years?
Westminster's experience is that following a
period of quite rapid decline in the previous 20-30 years,
the position for traditional markets has stabilised over the last
10 years. What markets offer has become more diverse, as
has the background mix of market traders. Although held less frequently,
growth has been seen in the demand for, and provision of specialist,
leisure and farmers markets.
Are the number and types of markets in decline?
If so, why?
In Westminster traditional markets and street
trading is relatively stable, with operator and consumer demand
for specialist markets growing. However, variations are evident
depending on the location and immediate environment of the markets,
and the demographics of the surrounding area.
Are their obstacles preventing the creation of
In Westminster, physical infrastructure restrictions,
particularly on the highway and in the public realm, can create
barriers to the creation, expansion and maintenance of markets,
because of the competing demands on highway use. However, other
obstacles in play presently include the economic climate and local
competition, lack of available investment, and policies seeking
to balance the viability of existing markets and retail premises
against new market proposals or opportunities.
Are their obstacles hindering the successful business
of existing market operators and traders?
The major difficulty for the City of Westminster,
as a market operator, is the inflexibility and prescriptive nature
of the legislation under which street trading and markets operates.
Prescriptive rights held by individual traders as licence holders,
and restrictions in re-siting and developing pitches, limits the
ability of the City Council to implement improvement plans for
markets. The value of these rights, and the fact that they are
not time extinguished, is such that traders are reluctant to risk
their rights in order to commit to proposed changes.
A recent consultant study of street trading
in the Oxford Street/Regent Street/Bond Street area demonstrated
a real lack of retail expertise amongst many street traders, and
the need to provide research and training to inform business decisions.
What has been the impact of specialist markets
eg continental and farmers markets, and do such markets integrate
successfully with older markets?
Specialist markets have had a positive influence
both for existing traditional markets and for communities when
operating in isolation. They tend to operate for a limited duration,
either on a single day per week or for three or four days at infrequent
intervals. They have integrated well in Westminster with existing
markets under these operating conditions.
2. THEIR SOCIAL
What social and economic effects do traditional
retail markets have on their local communities?
Markets, on the whole, do have a valuable social
and economic effect on local communities. They do this in a number
of ways. They provide retail opportunities and support complementary
retail premises in the area by increasing footfall on market days.
They provide low-start-up-cost employment opportunities. They
provide a physical focus and activity within a community, which
can be enhanced by associated leisure and cultural activities.
This contributes to a sense of place for all the community.
What qualities contribute to a successful market
delivering social and economic benefits, and are their examples
of best practice that have a wider application?
Markets need to be relevant to the community,
who ideally should at least be stakeholders in them. In the largest
traditional market operated by the City Council arrangements to
devolve the governance of the market have been implemented to
the local community, which involves local residents, market traders,
and community representatives. This has allowed relevant priorities
to be set and focussed local interest in the management and operation
of the market.
A local innovation has been the allocation of
Ward member budgets, which some members have earmarked as additional
investment in local markets.
Does local government support markets effectively?
Support in Westminster is provided in line with
other corporate priorities and resource constraints. Feedback
suggests support is effective but can be improved.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of local
authorities having powers to operate markets?
One advantage of local authorities operating
markets relates to the integration of market development into
the wider management and improvement of the public realm. This
includes physical, economic, and social development strategies.
Another advantage is the ability of the local
authority to take a long-term view, and support markets through
challenging financial times or periods of change. Local authorities
may also prioritise markets for other than purely financial reasons.
Some potential disadvantages are that some local
authorities may not have relevant organisational structures or
dedicated expertise to maximise business opportunities, or may
not have the necessary freedoms to implement innovation.
Does central government support markets effectively?
If not, what additional support should be provided?
Not known. Very little knowledge of any cohesive
market strategy or support currently provided in the Westminster
area, which suggests very little is given.
Could central government make better use of markets
to achieve national goals, particularly with regard to social
cohesion, health and regeneration?
The possibilities here seem endless. Direct
support to market operators, traders, and sharing of best practice
would obviously assist, not just the traders but Local Authorities.
4. PLANNING AND
Do local and national planning regulations support
or hinder the development of markets?
Westminster finds the planning regulations have
a neutral effect on the development of markets.
Do licensing regulations support or hinder the
development of markets?
Licensing regimes vary and markets can be established
by a number of statutory and non-statutory means. Existing legislation,
unique in Westminster, which regulates markets and street trading
has proved to significantly restrict the City Council in achieving
change in market operations, or integrate street trading provision
into a wider vision for the public realm. The City Council has
deposited a Bill (City of Westminster Bill 2008-09, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/privbill/200809/unassigned/cofw/020/414655/191108/2009020.htm)
to relax some of these constraints, although a balance will still
exist between trader's rights and local authority powers, even
if it brought into force.
What improvements could be made to the planning
and licensing regimes to aid the development of markets?
The Bill deposited by the City Council would
go some way to make amendments to the licensing regime under which
markets operate. Further amendments promoted in a public Bill
would make more fundamental changes to existing regimes to give
greater flexibility in managing markets for the wider benefit
of local communities.