Sunday, 22 November 2009

Continental Market - not as good these days?

I thought this weekend’s ‘Continental Market’ in Morpeth was more than a bit disappointing. There were far fewer stalls than in past years, and prices were sky-high. They used to be a bit pricey – but £12 a kilo for cheese and £3 for an ordinary loaf of bread is taking the mickey.

And that is the point – we can get better cheese cheaper in the Cheese Shop, we have a baker on the Weds Market, one on the farmers’ market and two bakers in the town all selling as good if not better bread cheaper. And the other stuff on sale:
pate and dried sausage we can get at Morpeth Deli or Gebhards, or the monthly farmers market – again cheaper
dried fruit and nuts we can get at Julian Graves or Morpeth Deli
we can get better sweets, chocolate, fudge – again cheaper – at the excellent sweet shops Morpeth has, or again the Wednesday and farmers’ market
- and even the wine on sale was nothing to write home about

I’m biased – but I think both our Wednesday Market and our monthly farmers’ market have more atmosphere and offer a better range of products and considerably cheaper prices. So – I suggest that the Chamber of Trade review their regular booking of this ‘continental market’ (which is apparently based in Manchester anyway) and start supporting our local Northumbrian makets.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Morpeth Friday Market – the story continues…

Evaluation of the Morpeth Friday market trial:

NCC reported that the logistics of running a Friday market worked OK and the costs were pretty well covered by rents received – so it is practicable. Meter records show that the car parks in Morpeth were 87% full at peak occupancy over the market Fridays, though this excludes season ticket and permit holder who do not use the meters.
The response to the NCC surveys was disappointing with only six shopkeepers and seven members of the public responding: the shopkeepers were 3 to 2 against the market, with one uncertain, the public were 6 to 1 in favour of the Friday market.
The market traders had a petition of over 200 market customers in favour of the Friday market, and a survey of shopkeepers with 87 returns, showing 80 in favour and 7 against.
The Chamber of Trade’s own survey had 26 responses with 6 for, 18 against and 2 undecided. There is obviously a mismatch between the shopkeepers surveys carried out between the market traders and the Chamber of Trade.

Terry Garnick for NCC concluded that another trial was needed, since there is little firm evidence on the impact of the market on Morpeth, and there was a poor response to the impartial NCC organised survey. However, with the opening of the Sanderson Arcade and in the run-up to Christmas, there were too many extraneous factors to make a fair assessment. He therefore proposed to suspend the Friday market for the present and run a second trial Friday market in February, with the intention of making that permanent if the assessment then was positive. He would also bring in advice from NCC Regeneration team to ensure a proper assessment is carried out. However, he pointed out that he would need clearance from councillors to go ahead with this proposal.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Denis Murphy

I am quite sorry to see Denis Murphy standing down as MP after 12 years in the job. Despite his reputation as ‘MP for Ashington’, he has been a consistent and enthusiastic supporter of the Morpeth Fairtrade Forum – and he strongly backed the formation of Morpeth & District Credit Union, now Northumberland Credit Union. And, he has always responded to my letters and requests, even if only to pass on a Minister’s reply.

And in election campaigns, he has always been friendly and considerate, even to the point of ‘endorsing’ me on a couple of occasions, suggesting that he’d prefer me to be MP than any of the other candidates.

So, as I gear up for what will be my fifth General Election campaign – I will have seen three Labour candidates, four LibDem candidates and five Conservative candidates. There really should be an award for consistency and persistence!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Friday Market - what do you think?

Tomorrow (Fri 6th Nov) is the last of the six week trial period of a Friday Market in Morpeth. There'll be no market on Friday 13th (understandably), the Chamber of Trade are hosting the Connental Market on Fri 20th (and Sat 21st) - then if the evaluation of the Friday Market is positive, it can return on Fri 27th.

But that's the point - unlike many Council-led consultations, this isn't predecided. There'll be a meeting of the Markets Forum on 18th Nov - when both enthusiasts and doubters will be able to report their experiences. NCC has carried out surveys of customers, traders and shopkeepers - and I'm pleased that the Chamber of Trade is having a meeting on 16th Nov to collate their evidence.

I'll be chairing the Forum meeting - and I'd appreciate any comments or more particularly experiences of the Friday market to feed in. I'm going to try to be systematic, looking at:
i) the practicalities of running the market on Friday (from NCC)
ii) the results of the surveys
iii) feedback from Chamber of Trade, Morpeth Town Council, GMDT and any other organisations with evidence
iv) feedback from the Friday traders, shopkeepers - and Wednesday traders
and v) feedback from the public

I hope that will cover everyone concerned - if not, let me know!