Rents could be slashed in Barnsley market just a year after landmark building opened

Rents for some stallholders in Barnsley’s prestige new Glassworks market hall could be slashed by half a year after the development opened in a move which raises questions over the finances behind the £180m town centre redevelopment project.

By Paul Whitehouse
Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 11:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 11:57 am
Upstairs, Downstairs: Barnsley's Glassworks market hall
Upstairs, Downstairs: Barnsley's Glassworks market hall

Traders have also been told they may be able to pack up at 4.30pm in future, which would mean the council pulling back from its rule that the market must mirror shop openings, with stallholders expected to stay open until 5pm.

The proposals have been put to traders, who said the change would see tenants in the upstairs section of the market hall get rents cut by half, though Barnsley Council has not confirmed that figure.

Barnsley Council’s suggestion would mean scrapping a policy of uniform rents regardless of stall position.

Vacant: Barnsley's meat and fish market still has empty stalls almost a year after opening

Although reducing rents would have an impact on immediate income, the council remains “hopeful” the change would attract new businesses and offset the impact of reduced fees.

However, before the rent cut was announced, projections had been scaled back from the initial expectation the Glassworks scheme would leave the council in profit.

Most recent figures suggested income would be £100,000 adrift in the current year.

Stallholders on the ground floor of the market have also been invited to apply to move upstairs, despite the council signing stallholders up to long leases when they moved into the building last year.

The council has reported healthy footfall in the market, but the way they calculate that has been questioned by the National Market Traders Federation Barnsley group.

Spokesman Keiron Knight welcomed the idea of support for some traders, but called on Barnsley Council to bring in new advisors with “innovative” ideas to capitalise on the value the market brings to the town centre.

He said: “The combined annual turnover of all the market stalls within the Glassworks will run into millions of pounds, yet we are working under the directives of Barnsley Council who have never run profitable businesses.

“This scenario is never going to end well for the market traders, the town centre or the people of Barnsley.”

When the market moved to the Glassworks, more than 30 stallholders chose not to go because of the new arrangements and Mr Knight said that had cost a six figure sum in lost rental income.

The decision to cut rents would leave a bigger deficit, he said.

New advisors “with fresh and innovative ideas would mean Barnsley market could return to being one the greatest markets in the country. It would allow everyone to move forwards together,” he said.

Matt Gladstone, the council’s Executive Director for Place, said: “Feedback from traders suggests there is a difference in trading position between the ground level and first floor.

“Therefore, we are considering reducing rent for traders upstairs in the market. This will not only help support traders on the upper level, but also help attract new businesses into the market to ensure it continues to be a vibrant shopping destination.

“By attracting more new businesses into the market, we’re hopeful this will offset any loss of rental income from reducing rents for upstairs traders.

“Upstairs traders will also be supported by the addition of new operators in Market Kitchen this autumn, which promises to be an exciting addition.

“We are also considering adjusting the opening times of the market. Feedback suggests this will help traders from a logistical point of view, but also enhance the customer experience.

“We will discuss the options with the traders and listen to their feedback before making a decision. As we approach the first anniversary of the market’s move into The Glass Works, we see this as a great time to reflect on what can be tweaked to ensure the market continues to thrive.”

Barnsley Council made the decision to focus on the market as a cornerstone of the town centre regeneration, pushing it to the front of the new Glassworks building with doors directly on to Cheapside and May Day Green, when previously it had been hidden behind shops.

The meat and fish market opened almost a year ago, but the council has struggled to find tenants for some stalls, which remain vacant. They have said previously that is partly due to a policy of selecting only the potential traders they believe to be suitable for the site.