Markets at historic site facing the axe

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A STEEP decline in the number of traders means that Calderdale Council is looking to close the markets operating in the historic Piece Hall.

On January 10 the Cabinet will discuss a proposal to shut the markets, currently held there on Thursday and Saturdays in a move which could save 32,000 a year.

If members opt for the recommended closure the Piece Hall Market would close at the end of February, relocation packages would be offered to the remaining market traders who occupy the site and the council would continue to operate specialist "one off" markets.

A report says the Markets Service needs to save 100,000 in 2011-12. Closure of the Piece Hall Market would save 32,000 a year towards that figure.

While it is proposed that trading may cease towards the end of February, it is likely that the Saturday market will be cancelled immediately.

Of the four remaining Saturday traders, three have given notice that they will cease trading from the Piece Hall in 2011.

Coun Barry Collins, Cabinet member for economy and environment, said: "While no decisions have yet been taken, it's clear that we simply cannot afford to lose 32,000 every year on the Piece Hall Market in these difficult times.

"Over the years, the council has done its best to support the market but, personally, I think its fate may well have been sealed in July 2006 when it was closed at short notice on health and safety grounds and some traders moved away.

"The council responded to a public campaign and subsequently reopened the market, providing significant support and investment.

"For example, current rental levels are the same as they were 20 years ago and we have offered discount packages for traders taking more than one stall.

"Sadly, despite this, we were never able to attract enough traders back to the site.''

An indoor market - sited just yards away - continues to thrive.