This week's readers' letter: Doncaster needs more than city status

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Monday, 19th July 2021, 9:47 am
The Wool Market

We write to you as a group of concerned residents living in Doncaster responding with our views on the article published in The Yorkshire Post on June 19.

We would like to suggest that it is naïve to think that attaining city status is the only thing needed in order for Doncaster to thrive. The only difference this status would make is that Doncaster could then be at the bottom of City Attainment leagues rather than the Town League tables.

The levels of obesity, especially in school children, school positions in the education league tables and the very low levels of post graduates working and living in Doncaster, being just a few of the problems.

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The current pandemic cannot be blamed, as the demise of the town had already started well before that began. Doncaster and Mexborough markets are an example of bad decisions and short-sighted management. Doncaster Council gave a contract to MAM to manage the market for 25 years. Part of this contract was for them to pay DMBC £122,000 annually and to make £6 million of improvements to the markets. These commitments have not been fulfilled, despite traders having paid full rent throughout lockdown.

The company returned to the council for financial support and was given an extra £910,000 of taxpayers’ money. The most recent report shows a further loss of almost £100,000.

Part of Doncaster indoor market was closed off in September 2018, with management announcing that the area was to be renovated. The businesses already there were offered a place in the Wool Market, at higher rents and opening six days a week. These traders gave up businesses, that they had previously bought, without receiving any compensation. The area was boarded off and has had no work done to it, and, to this day remains closed. These were businesses that would have paid rent and rates on these units had they been allowed to stay open.

One of these businesses was a licensed cafe that was so popular that customers travelled from outside of Doncaster to eat there and it was voted number two on Trip Advisor. The ethos of the cafe was that all produce was purchased from other traders on the market which helped to win a national award, from The National Association of British Markets Authorities, in 2011, for Doncaster market. Furthermore, these customers, enjoying the produce, also bought from the traders.

Removing such a business from the market could never be considered a good economic decision for Doncaster.

Mexborough Market resembles a derelict warehouse.

It is dirty and has no welcoming features which has resulted in a reduced footfall, making it difficult for traders to make a living. Councillor Andy Pickering, of Mexborough First, along with other councillors, has, unsuccessfully, asked for a full assessment of the markets. Planners in Doncaster spent money refurbishing the Wool Market with features that were copied from properties in Leeds and other large cities. Doncaster does not have the type, or number, of customers that these large cities have.

The building alone cannot make it a success. Doncaster was historically a market town with people visiting the town specifically to come to the market. It had a variety of traders making it an interesting place to visit.

The town now seems to be overrun with eateries. The tax payers of Doncaster are not getting value for money, the town needs better strategic and financial management if it is ever to thrive again.

Dave Lawson, Kath Johnson,

Doncaster