Hopes high for historic market after regeneration unit transfer
Scarborough's Market Charter dates from 1252 and is one of the country's oldest. An open air market selling a range of goods was held in the old town until the Market Hall was opened in 1853.
The vaults underneath the building, originally a bonded warehouse, have provided much of the markets' income since they were converted into stalls in 1993.
Whitby also holds a small open air market three days a week. At present, both markets generate a surplus which goes into the general property fund.
However, a report has revealed occupancy rates in the Scarborough Market Hall are falling – to 39 units let in 2009from 45 in 2008 with the Vaults' tenancies decreasing to 46 from 49, of 50, units in 2008.
Scarborough Council's head of regeneration Pauline Elliott said yesterday: "The income is therefore reducing and at risk in the short term.
"In 2005, a detailed Scrutiny report identified a need for 850k worth of investment in the Scarborough Market to pay for new stalls, security, signs, and banners. Since that time, lack of investment has made it difficult to attract new stallholders.
"Another major issue with the Market Hall in Scarborough is its location. This was picked up by the original Renaissance Kissing Sleeping Beauty document which recommended the creation of a new market square on the site of the Argos building."
Currently, the market is screened by other buildings from shoppers coming down Eastborough. It was hoped to create a new market square with open vistas, but there is unlikely to be enough money available during the recession.
However, Mrs Elliott underlined that Scarborough market – despite the restrictions of operating from a listed building site – still had huge potential, particularly in a tourist town with a high turnover of visitors.
"Where they operate in town centres, markets can be very successful, adding vibrancy to retail areas, offering customer choice and cost-effective fresh foods and other goods to local people.
"In many towns – such as Doncaster, Leeds and York – markets can be visitor destinations in their own right, offering a retail experience which is unique and varied compared to standard high streets.
"In a tourist area such as Scarborough Borough with new potential customers arriving weekly, this is an area which could be worth exploiting."
The opportunity for Scarborough Council to get more involved has been created by moves to bring the markets under the wing of the regeneration and planning service.
Scarborough Market takes place almost exclusively within the Market Hall, although town centre managers operate half a dozen stalls in the busy Newborough-Westborough pedestrian area to help fund town centre events.
Under the new regime it is proposed the 50k per year income from these stalls is ring-fenced to fund the Market and pay for events and promotions to raise its profile.
The budget earmarked to support small markets would also be pooled with the authority's town centre funding to form one overall pot.
Stallholders would team up with council chiefs to decide how to spend it and take the market in new directions.
This would include partnerships with the NHS, Deliciously Yorkshire, and Yorkshire Coast College to promote local produce, cooking and healthy eating.
The council would also look to outside grant-making bodies to help fund the business.