Memorandum by The National Retail Planning
Forum (MARKETS 24)
The National Retail Planning Forum (NRPF), a
registered charity, was created in 1995 to improve understanding
between private and public sectors on planning and its impact
on retailing. A membership based organisation, the Forum is specifically
not a lobbying organisation. Drawing as it does on local and central
government, the private sector and the academic arena, the Forum
aims to act as a bridge between the different interests involved
in retail planning.
NRPF Board membership currently consists of; The
Co-op Group, British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC), John
Lewis Partnership, Grosvenor, National Association of British
Market Authorities (Nabma), Tesco, Local Government Association
(LGA) Legal & General, Prudential, Lend Lease, and Westfield.
As well as staging a series of events, seminars and
workshops throughout the year, NRPF has a research group that
meets on a bi-monthly basis. A number of research projects have
been undertaken and published. NRPF also maintains a website www.nrpf.org
that contains a substantial knowledge base on retail planning
George Nicholson the founder and current secretary
of NRPF, was until recently the Chairman of the Trustees of the
Borough Market in London, where he has been a Trustee for over
30 years. He has been a leading figure in the revival of the fortunes
of the Borough Market as a retail food market. He also has extensive
knowledge of the markets industry in the UK and abroad. He was
formerly the chairman of the planning committee of the Greater
London Council and before that a local councillor in Southwark.
NRPF supports the submission made by the Retail
Markets Alliance (RMA) and has the following comments to make
based on the questions set out in terms of reference for the inquiry.
(a) How has the picture changed over the last
The UK has an historic public market tradition
stretching back many centuries. Borough Market for example has
existed on its current site since 1756, but has traded in and
around the foot of London Bridge since Roman times. Many other
markets in the UK have similar traditions, often having been established
by royal charter. There are also a number of privately run markets
in the UK. It had not been possible until Nabma undertook a survey
of Markets in 2005, to even start any serious discussion on the
scale or health of the UK markets sector. Data is still not collected
on a regular and consistent basis, making analysis, policy development
and growth planning difficult. This is not of course a situation
confined just to markets. The whole retail sector in the UK suffers
a deficit with respect to data gathering, something DCLG have
started, to address, but have by no means completed.
Markets are established in a number of different
formats and settings, including open air market places, street
markets, indoor markets, covered markets (sheds) and within shopping
centres. Each of these has developed either as a result of local
tradition eg. street markets in London, or because of property
market activity eg. town centre redevelopment. Markets operate
on different days of the week and at different times of the day,
depending on local circumstances. More recent developments, such
as farmers markets, continental markets and Christmas markets
operate either in existing locations; sometimes where markets
have ceased to operate; or sometimes in completely new locations.
It would be fair to say that there is no overall coherent picture
of the public markets in the UK. A good model for such an analysis
to begin is provided by the book "Public Markets",
recently published by the Library of Congress in the USA in 2008
One of the issues which will be developed later in
this statement, is the management and oversight of markets. Historically,
markets had a dedicated committee and staffing. The City of London
almost alone sustains such an arrangement, but latterly, most
markets committees have been merged into much larger more generic
committees, the markets themselves being situated in any number
of different departments. Markets have also often lost any direct
professional management oversight. In addition surpluseswhere
madeare usually absorbed in wider council finances and
not re-invested in the markets concerned. The net effect of all
this is that markets could have been said to have disappeared
"off the radar" of the public policy agenda in recent
This however needs to be balanced by the fact
that there are a number of very successful retail markets throughout
the UK, in every format. Indeed as a reflection of this, the BBC
4 Food programme in 2008, launched a "Market of the Year"
awardthe winner being Bury Market in Lancashire. Nabma
itself, has for a number of years now also run an annual markets
award in a number of different categories, which has also been
well received both in the markets industry and wider.
It is difficult to come to specific conclusions
about the trends over the last 10 years. As the Nabma survey revealed,
there remains substantial market activity throughout the UK. In
some areas the market plays a very similar role to an anchor tenant
eg Borough Market in Halifax in Yorkshire. In many other locations
they provide an important community focus in the towns/cities
in which they are located eg Leicester, Birmingham, Leeds, Darlington,
Newcastle or Cardiff etc. In others a high quality food offer
is provided eg Borough Market in London or Bury market in Lancashire,
whilst in yet others, eg Bradford, Huddersfield and Preston an
important source of "value" products for people on lower
incomes provides an essential service to consumers.
Undoubtedly however, the trading situation is
getting tougher. The direct competition from Asda, Tesco and Morrison's
and more recently the deep discount stores such as Aldi and Netto
is bound to increase the options open to the same customer base
that traditionally might have gone to a market. This makes the
need for a serious discussion about the future of retail markets
and the proper assessment of their needs for investment, promotion
and development even more pressing.
One feature of the markets world that is starting
to emerge is the replacement of the 70s generation of shopping
centres, that often contained markets, for example Liverpool and
Chester. Large property development companies such as ING, Land
Securities and Grosvenor are having to develop their thinking
on the next generation of markets. Developers are also thinking
of how to integrate new style markets into their new schemes for
example at Kings Cross in London. Some of the larger town centre
schemes are also being seen by developers as possible locations
for new markets. This is a new departure for developers. It is
significant that the new market in the Lend Lease/Grosvenor scheme
in Preston is being seen as the "Third Anchor", the
other two being John Lewis and M&S. This is a good indication
of how markets can be utilised if the local authority, developer
and retailers have a shared vision of what their town/city can
(b) Are the number and types of markets in
decline and if so why?
As the Nabma survey showed, the picture is mixed.
One the one hand the number of market days has stayed pretty constant
with even an increase in the number of stalls available. On the
other hand, vacancy rates have increased in some markets and income
has also declined. Many markets however create surplusesoften
quite substantial ones. Other types of markets, such as specialist
markets, farmers markets, car-boot sales, continental markets
and Christmas markets have shown a marked increase in recent years,
pointing to an ongoing demand for market based activity and the
number of traders prepared to take a pitch.
Borough Market in London has since 1998 created a
completely new retail food market (in addition to the existing
wholesale market), increasing the number of stalls/businesses
located there from around 12 to over 160, including a range of
casual stalls, permanent stands, retail outlets, cafes and restaurants.
There are undoubtedly matters to do with lack
of investment and the proper management of markets that will over
time affect the attractiveness of existing markets, something
that will inevitably lead to further decline unless tackled. The
same issue will severely limit the possibilities for creating
(c) Are there obstacles preventing the creation
of more markets?
This is a very general question, to which it
is difficult to give a definitive answer. Again it depends on
the type of market. However it can be encapsulated in just two
wordsfunding and management. Obviously the creation of
a new indoor market is vastly more expensive than the creation
of a new open air market. There are very little start up costs
for either market or trader in a starting a farmers market or
car boot sale. On the other hand, Islington Council in London
have recently invested over £1 million on regenerating an
existing street market (Whitecross Street) that was in severe
decline. Since the investment, there has been a marked increase
in the number and type of traders and customers. Cities such as
Liverpool, Chester and Preston have indoor markets in ageing shopping
centres that are in need of and are in the process of being redeveloped.
These are very costly exercises running into several million pounds.
However, the success of these schemes depends on the state of
the retail development industrycurrently at a low ebb.
The current property market conditions will leave a number of
markets in limbo, potentially threatening their long term survival.
Other markets struggle on in buildingsmostly Arndale type
centresthat had inappropriate spaces created for them,
usually as a replacement of an historic market structure. There
are a number of historic markets, in need of substantial investment
as well. Borough Market in London for example spent nearly £10
million on developing its new retail market, the cost being for
a mixture of the refurbishment of existing structures and new
market buildings. Funding was raised from a combined mixture of
property sales, government fundinginitially through SRB
and latterly through the RDAand the markets own resources.
There is a problem with the integration of new farmers
markets within existing markets. 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. This is not a black and white issue, but 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.
As mentioned earlier, the lack of active management
of existing markets in a number of local authorities, makes it
most unlikely that they would be seeking to create new markets.
Recently in London, the London Development Agency (LDA) has funded
a number of posts for people to be located in the existing wholesale
markets to promote increased trade and also improve links between
producers and the markets concerned. Leicester Market is considering
making a specific appointment to promote the existing retail market
to the same end. These are isolated examples. They do however
demonstrate a growing awareness of the potential of markets as
vehicles for increased business.
It is this potential that has yet to be more
widely appreciated in both local government and central government
circles. Blackpool has recently started to promote itself as a
centre for traditional foods, even launching a new sausage. There
are a number of food trails in places such as Lancashire which
are starting to develop the potential for food tourism. Markets
are well placed to exploit this potential. Stockport market itself
currently undergoing refurbishment, has the town's tourism office
located adjacent to the market and uses the market on all the
towns' promotional material. Bury calls itself "The World
Famous Market". It is also a very good and rare example of
a market and a shopping centre working together to mutual benefit.
Often it is very difficult to locate a market within a shopping
centre either because of the physical design of the centre or
because of a lack of co-operation between the two, as a visit
to Swansea, Manchester or Nottingham will reveal.
(d) Are there obstacles hindering the successful
business of existing market operators and traders?
Overall, there is no coherent policy framework
either at local, regional, or central government level setting
out the place or importance of markets, either as part of the
retail hierarchy or as potential vehicles for tackling current
concerns with healthy eating and growing levels of obesity. There
is a brief mention in PPS6 on the planning for markets, but there
is no identifiable funding stream at central, regional or local
level to support the development of existing markets or to increase
them in number. Part of the problem is a "lack of visibility"
for markets in the policy and political fraternity. Few people
in the regeneration or development worlds have any direct experience
of markets. Even in the food world, there is often a focus on
producers or end users, food preparation and cooking. But the
key place that markets play in the supply chain is often completely
There is as has already been stressed, often no-one
with a direct responsibility for the management or the future
direction of a market within a local authority. This is particularly
marked in London, where there are a huge number of street markets.
All too often, the only function a local authority plays is one
of issuing a licence to an individual trader from a distant town
hall. The undertaking of cleansing, food standards and consumer
protection is carried out in an ad hoc manner by different departments,
with little regard to the overall functioning of an individual
market or a series of markets in a borough. The overall upkeep
of the market, maintaining standards, trader relations, the provision
of electrical, water and storage facilities is often missing as
is any promotion of the markets.
There has in recent years also been a trendencouraged
by central governmentto view markets as simply part of
the wider property portfolio of an authority. Markets are of course
of their very nature a place where space is rented out in different
ways. But in viewing a market and the spaces within it as simply
a part of a property portfolio or in the context of the rental
structure of the town within which they are located, runs the
risk of misunderstanding the nature of a market or pricing out
existing traders. In an extreme example a local authority will
view the shops surrounding a market not as part of the market
but simply as part of a wider portfolio. This completely ignores
the interplay that goes on between a market and the shops it contains
and also the potential for business growth within a market. In
an extreme example local authorities have been known to strip
markets of their shopsand hence removing an important source
of income thus undermining the viability of the market itself.
Sometimes, when a market is redeveloped, the same thing occurs.
The example of Borough Market in London is again
illustrative of a different approach. Here the creation of what
is known as a "Composite Market" has been developed,
where there is a mixture of casual and permanent stalls stands
and kiosks, retail outlets, cafes and restaurants, all feeding
off each other. This is a more robust and flexible model than
There are also issues regarding the trader/authority
organisation in a market. The example of the Boqueria market in
Barcelona is worth exploring for wider application. All traders
as part of their licence are required to join the trader organisation.
The traders in turn employ staff to promote the market and liaise
with the city authority, who in turn employ specific staff to
look after the interests of the market. All 40 markets in Barcelona
are legally bound together in an independent legal vehicle that
receives the rents and uses any surpluses to re-invest in the
markets. Currently there is also a huge programme of refurbishment
going on in Barcelona funded by the City authority.
In most markets in the UK, any surpluses are
redistributed to the general local authority account and are not
re-invested in the way they are in Barcelona. If markets are to
be sustained and develop in the UK it is crucial that adequate
investment is made and income generated is retained.
There is also an issue of the perception of
markets amongst the retailer, property development and investment
worlds. Generally, markets are not understood, are not seen in
a very good light, nor as attractive neighbours. Markets that
have been included in property schemes have often been poorly
designed and located. On the other hand, some food retailers such
as Morrison's are starting to include a "market" concept
in their internal layouts. There needs to be a proper dialogue
with the retail industry about the present and future role of
retail markets to increase understanding in the retail world of
local authority wishes and also in the local authority world of
the demands of modern retailing.
(e) What has been the impact of specialist
markets eg continental and farmers markets
The impact has generally been positive. This
is both because it has generated new business and also raised
the profile of markets in the UK. It has also brought many new
and younger entrants into an industry that has a traditionally
2. THEIR SOCIAL
(a) What social and economic effects do traditional
retail markets have on their local communities?
This is a very important area to study and promote.
Markets are above all a social space with an economic function,
and one historically kept in common ownership for the public good.
This explains the special status given to markets and the fact
that markets like Borough Market are deemed to be charitable organisations.
This is not because the market function itself is charitable.
It is because historically it has been deemed important for local
authorities to retain a place in public ownershipoften
in perpetuityfor the purposes of holding a market.
The issue of the social nature of markets has recently
been the subject of a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
One has only to compare the atmosphere in a traditional retail
market to a supermarket or department store to see how differently
a market operates in terms of human interaction and customer experience.
Traditional markets play a crucial role in a number of towns and
cities, particularly for the poorer sections of the communityincluding
students. Markets are also low entry cost vehicles for business
growth and the encouragement of start-ups and the potential for
developing local enterprises. At Borough Market there is an annual
community bar-b-que, and a series of events and festivals throughout
the year. There is also a proposal being developed for a food
school to link up local schools with traders, food specialists
and the chefs who use the market.
Approaching 5 million people a year pass through
the Market. The market has had a dramatic impact in terms of its
wider regeneration effects locally in Southwark, and also in the
image of the area to the outside world.
(b) What qualities contribute to a successful
market delivering social and economic benefits, and are there
examples of best practice that have a wider application?
The qualities required are:
1. A clear focus by a local authority on the
running and management of a successful market. You have to want
to run a market.
2. The integration of the market into the surrounding
area where it is located, whether the surrounding retail offer
or the host community. You have to manage the place in which the
market is located, and study and understand the links it has and
needs to maintain. Permeability is a key feature.
3. An understanding within the authority of the
potential of the market in helping to deliver cross cutting programmes
within the council. You have to understand how a market works.
4. The development of links with organisations
locally who might benefit from contact with the market ie schools
and hospitals etc and also those outside the area linked to the
market supply chain. You have to adopt an entrepreneurial outward
looking approach to your market.
5. An ongoing programme of customer research,
feedback and improvements to the market. You must always be seeking
to find ways of improving your market, both for those who trade
in it and those who visit it.
6. Strong trader organisation and proper liaison
with the market authority. Markets work best when both are working
together to a common set of objectives.
7. Transparency in the running and financing
of the market is vital. This encourages ownership and involvement
8. A clear understanding of where and how the
market operates in the supply chain. It is essential to see the
market in its wider economic context.
9. Participation in local regional and national
networks: It is vital to stay abreast of developments in the markets
world and also in the regeneration and education fields amongst
10. Celebrate your achievements. Let people know
how you are making progress and share that with the local community.
A number of examples of best practice have been
supplied by (RMA) in their evidence to which we would concur.
I would add the Boqueria market in Barcelona.
(a) Does local government support markets
The picture is mixed for the reasons set out
above. Generally there is a need for la's to give greater recognition
and prominence to their markets in terms of how they are perceived
and managed. Greater understanding is also needed of their role
in the local shopping hierarchy. A markets role within a wider
economic context both from a potential employment perspective
and also as vehicles for business growth also needs to be better
understood by la's. Currently, there is a "markets champion"
(Stockport) designated within the LGA, but how this is translated
into action either in terms of policy development in the LGA or
in action on the ground is not at all clear.
(b) What are the advantages and disadvantages
of local authorities having powers to operate markets?
The advantage is that markets occupying as they often
do a central role (physically and also socially) in the communities
in which they are located, are a natural vehicle for the outward
expression of the la's commitment to providing both an important
service and the need to communicate with its residents. It is
a potentially vivid expression of a "public good". Markets
are potentially a good vehicle for an authority to experiment
with new ideas and also to promote competition to other retailers
thus ensuring an evolving and dynamic offer to residents. The
disadvantage are again set out above in that some la's do not
have the commitment, powers, policies or resources to manage their
markets properly. All of these things could be remedied. The alternative
of private operators meets some of these problems but also potentially
fundamentally changes the relationships set out above. Any move
in that direction should be carefully contemplated and should
not be driven solely by financial constraints or perceived lack
of management ability internally.
(c) Does central government support markets
effectively? If not, what additional support should be provided?
It is difficult to find an example of central government
support for markets, apart from the brief mention in PPS6 with
respect to DCLG planning policy. There is thus a policy vacuum
in Whitehall that needs addressing. Crucially, with respect to
food markets, Defra needs to be asked to address the different
potential roles of markets both for their role in respect of the
food supply chain but also as potential vehicles for promoting
and selling British produce as part of any food security plans
that might emerge from Government. Other Government departments
such as BERR, DCSF, DoH need also to be asked to review their
policy frameworks to include a section on the role and potential
of retail markets.
(d) Could central government make better use
of markets to achieve national goals, particularly with regard
to social cohesion, health and regeneration?
Yes, for the reasons set out above.
4. PLANNING AND
(a) Do local and national planning regulations
support or hinder the development of markets?
Both. There is support at national level in
PPS6. However, when it comes to application at the local level,
there is little evidence of a clear analysis of the role of markets
and the need for supportive policies. Markets are dynamic entities
that require careful management, flexibility in the interpretation
of planning regulations, and speed of decision making. It is also
crucial to clearly set the market in the context of the surrounding
retail offer whether in town centre or street. It is important
that la's as part of the development of their "Core Strategies"
include a section on the potential of their markets.
(b) Do licensing regulations support or hinder
the development of markets?
See the (RMA) evidence. As mentioned above, it is
not necessarily one of a problem with licensing as such, but in
London in particular, la's only see themselves as having a licensing
role, rather than a wider remit. In fact what are called markets,
are in fact no more than a series of individual numbered pitches
marked out on a street. There is no collective entity that can
be described or defined as a "market" in law. This obviously
has severe implications for the proper management and development
of a market. There are other restrictions currently in place in
London that severely restrict the charges that can be made, affecting
the financial management of the markets concerned and hence their
(c) What improvements could be made to the
planning and licensing regimes to aid the development of markets?
There needs to be a complete review of both the planning
and licensing regimes as they apply to markets at national, regional
and local level. The guiding influence behind this review, should
be to allow markets to (a) be managed effectively, (b) be able
to attract funding, (c) be able to compete properly in the wider
retail world, (d) be able to operate in a financially viable manner,
(e) be able to develop and grow, (f) be able to play a part in
the developing sustainability agenda, in respect of food policy,
urban and rural development, and climate change.