The Committee will received an update on the High Wycombe Market.
Presenter: Jacqueline Ford, Economic Development
Jacqueline Ford, Economic Development Officer, provided a report and presentation on the High Wycombe Market. The following main points were noted:
· Quarterbridge had been appointed to carry out a review of the market. Two engagement sessions had taken place with local councillors. Trader engagement and a public survey had also been undertaken.
· The survey showed that the main reason for people visiting the town centre was to visit the Eden shopping centre. However, some people said the market was their first and secondary reason to visit the town centre.
· During lock down there was a different cohort using the town centre i.e. residents who usually travelled elsewhere for work and who would be rediscovering the town.
· In the survey farmer’s markets, craft markets, Christmas markets and food markets were indicated as the most popular with regards to the kind of markets people liked to attend.
· 79% of responders stated that they recognised the market as an asset to the town – even if they didn’t visit it regularly.
· Some people travel to other areas to visit a market, however the survey indicated that if there were more events and options they would visit the High Wycombe market.
· Many respondents indicated that they still like to visit a town to shop.
· A surprisingly large number of respondents think that High Wycombe does not promote the town and local business to the wider community enough.
· Comments included requests more stalls - variety and quality, fresh food, speciality markets and events.
· Five traders provided feedback on the market and stated that improvements were needed around poor signage, poor appearance, perceived lack of footfall and a request for more business support.
· Opportunities for the future include use of the under croft of the Guildhall, new starter stalls, new gazebos, better signage, better social media, linking with the community board and HWBIDCo.
· Benefits from moving the market management from Estates Team to the new Local Economic Growth Team include operational and strategic opportunities, and consideration of best practice across Buckinghamshire for the markets.
· A further update on the market would be provided to the Committee at the next meeting.
In response to questions the following points were noted:
· There had been an allocated budget of £10,000 for the Quarterbridge report. The independent company had been appointed to provide a new view and ideas for the market.
· Parking concessions could be considered however all links and aspect of the town centre need to be considered.
· Costings for gazebos were being considered and further information would be provided once the process for these had been confirmed.
· There was concern regarding the lack of management of the market with regards to hazards and tidiness. It was noted that a new market manager had been appointed and the observations of members would be raised and investigated.
· It was suggested that Easton Street car parking costs be reduced / removed on a Saturday to encourage shoppers at the eastern end of town.
· Regarding the age of the survey participants, it was reported that there was a broad breakdown of people who completed the survey from 18 to over 65.
· It was suggested to change bus routes so that more people would have to go through the market to improve footfall – although other members raised concerns of safety and air quality
· The wider relationship with the town and the market would all have to be considered with regards to location.
· The numbers in the survey were statistically representative, the wider breakdown with ethnicity and gender would be reported.
· It was suggested that the town centre was not as busy due to planning, parking issues and the pandemic. It was noted the survey was done ahead of lockdown. The challenges that our towns faced pre-Covid have been accelerated - but there could be advantages to changes in the behaviour of shoppers following the pandemic. There were different operating models to consider.
· It was noted that the new gazebos would not need to be fixed to the road as the new style were suitably weighted to prevent these from damage in high winds.
· There was inconsistency with the apparent success of the market on different days.
· Consideration would be given to the quality and diversity of the market offer.
· Quarterbridge had national case studies of success in their report which would be provided at the next meeting. There had been challenges for other markets in the county.
· Consideration would be given to future events but this would be a challenge due to COVID 19.
· Investigation would be undertaken with regards to the new market management contract next year and the role of members to help shape / provide view on this operational arrangement would be clarified.
· Activities around parking and footfall would also be investigated.
· It was suggested that the management of market should be brought back into the council or the market traders.
· Free parking on Saturdays at Duke Street car park was suggested.
· Some of the high street could be used for performances for groups such as schools to encourage people to the market area.
· Car boot sales were very popular in the area and it was suggested to use elements of these events to boost footfall at the market.
The Chairman thanked Jacqueline for the update and it was noted that a further update would be provided to the meeting in November.