Council say Doncaster's declining markets could be "best in North" after £7.3m boost

Artists' impression of the new Wool Market
Artists' impression of the new Wool Market

Doncaster Council have secured £7.3 million to bring life back into the markets which have been losing footfall.

Part of the council’s plans to rejuvenate the markets include renovating two Grade II-listed buildings, the Corn Exchange and Wool Market, which council officers said will be the “jewels of the town.”

Artists' impression of the new Wool Market

Artists' impression of the new Wool Market

Designs for the £3 million Wool Market were revealed recently with artists’ impressions of the transformation which is set to open in Spring 2019.

Drew Oxley, head of council trade and services, said: “There’s been a definite need to improve the markets. It needs an injection, it needs a bit of life, some vibrancy.

“It’s a good market, one of the best in England, but we have got aspirations for it to be the best in the North of England.”

The markets have been in decline for years with the birth of online shopping and the growth of supermarkets.

On the stalls, people were concerned about the decline in footfall and did not seem as hopeful for the future as the council.

One market trader, featured in the video, said: “It’s definitely on a decline. There’s no doubt about that, you just have to look around the stalls. We’ve been here 27 years and seen it go down from a thriving market to a small market.

“Internet is mainly to blame in my opinion. The only way I could see it being improved is if they bring a bus down here. There’s not a problem with the cost of rents, any of that. It’s simply footfall, we don’t get anyone down here. And it’s so far away for most people.”

At today’s cabinet meeting, councillors were adamant the new plans will give it the boost it needs. They also said no decision has yet been made on whether the market will be put into private hands.

Mr Oxley said: “We’ve already done some soft market research so we know the marketplace is keen for people interested in Doncaster and Mexborough. So, a proposal will be put forward and a procurement option then that will come back to cabinet in December this year.

“It’s important to know that nothing will happen until cabinet review the decision and have a look at the proposal that’s put on the table.”

Councillor Joe Blackburn, highways, street scene and trading services, said: “There was speculation about us selling it, leasing it, and no firm decision has been made. That will be decided ultimately by cabinet some time later in the process after we have considered the options for the best way forward.

Coun Nuala Fennelly, children, young people and schools, asked what the motivation was for potentially leasing the markets, to which Mr Oxley replied the council have been in consultation and still need to weigh up the options.

He said: “This isn’t about selling the family silver or making a quick buck, this is about safeguarding the future of Doncaster’s markets for the people.”