A private company is being called in to manage the food court at Barnsley’s new flagship Glass Works shops and leisure complex, council officials have told market traders, with only three out of the ten outlets so far filled as the Autumn opening approaches.
The development comes two weeks ahead of the opening of the first phase of the complex, the meat and fish market, where existing traders believe the hall will no more than two thirds occupied when it opens on September 1.
Barnsley Council has declined to comment on both elements of the development, but the National Market Traders Federation say they were told of the council’s intentions to bring in outside management for the food hall, to be called Market Kitchen, at a regular meeting.
At that time they were also told only three outlets so far have tenants, all of which are traditional cafes which operated in the old market complex.
That does not reflect the council’s ambition of providing a varied and healthy selection of food, designed to appeal to the wide-reaching mix of visitors they want to attract to the Glass Works.
No detail was given to federation members about the reasons for calling in a management company, due to take over in six months, at the meeting, and NMTF Barnsley group spokesman Kieron Knight said: “It is a new company with no track record of success in this area.
“We don’t understand why they are being used, apparently without it being put out to tender. Surely that would be the best way to ensure value for the taxpayer?”
Traders were told that under the terms of the deal, the company will have a 15 year lease. The cafes signed up so far are understood to be on a ‘day rate’ rather than the long-term leases which have been offered to traders wanting retail stalls, meaning they could leave without significant notice.
The Market Kitchen will be on the first floor of the complex, with seating for up to 500, and a terrace overlooking Barnsley’s new town square.
On its website, the council states: “As well as providing a great range of tasty foods, Market Kitchen will pride itself on its ‘from the market to plate ethos’.
“Where possible food outlets will be encouraged to source ingredients directly from the market or from local providers, helping to sustain the local economy.”
The website states that four cafe businesses from the previous market were intending to take up residence in the Market Kitchen, with the figure quoted to the Federation suggesting one of those has dropped out.
Meanwhile, the new meat and fish market opens on September 1, with several existing traders including butchers and fishmongers making the move.
But Stuart Barrow, who has traded there for 40 years will serve his last customers on Wednesday August 29 because he cannot afford the new charges, which would see his monthly rent increase from the current £416 to £1,750 for a similar sized stall.
His wife Melony has spent 32 years on the stall and said there had even been confusion about when they had to move out.
“We were told we could still trade on the Saturday the new market opened and told our customers. Then we found out we couldn’t. We had bought Prosecco for our Saturday customers but now won’t be able to serve them.
“I am just starting to be able to talk about it, I cried because I am so sad.”
The situation had been compounded by the closure of the multi-storey car park in the complex, which is being replaced as part of the town centre regeneration, said Mr Barrow, with his takings plunging by £600 on the first Saturday those parking spaces were not available.
Mr Barrow said he understood five or six existing traders would move to the new market, with suggestions that they may be augmented by a cheese stall, a green grocer and flower seller, though no confirmed details of the make-up of the new hall have yet been released by the council.
The Glass Works is the focal point of regeneration work affecting a large part of the town centre, with a new library, town square and extensive modernisation work to other areas also in progress.