Future of historic Flint market stalls hangs in balance

Reporter:

Beth Hughes

The future of a town’s old street market is hanging in the balance as officials and councillors discuss its viability.

Flint Town Council has attempted for many years to lure shoppers to the street market, which is currently held every Friday on Church Street.

But councillors have now agreed that the future of the weekly stalls should be reconsidered as the once-bustling marketplace has dwindled to only three stalls.

Flint Town Mayor Vicky Perfect said it was a shame that residents no longer make use of the historic market. According to Cllr Perfect, who is also a local historian, Flint market began in the 1200s and was extremely popular in the 1970s.

Speaking at a meeting of the town council, she said: “The general view of the public is that the road should be opened on Church Street, and I have to agree with that. The amount of stalls that turn up doesn’t warrant Church Street to be closed for cars.

“It causes traffic jams, and Flint Town Council hasn’t got the money to pay for it to be wardened on market day. Councillors have decided that they couldn’t afford to pay for the upkeep of the market to be staffed.

“It is a shame there aren’t more stalls, because it would be good. I suggested if the stalls could be moved near St Mary’s Church, but that has all been done up. It’s whether the vans agree to moving there.

“There are pros and cons to closing the market. But it’s a shame that people use the industrial estate, with its B&M, and Homebargains, who are selling exactly the same thing as all the stalls in one big place. They brought the demise of the market.”

Cllr Lorna Jones agrees that the nearby retail park, as well as the “ill will of shop holders’ experience,” produces “not much benefit, just a drop in footfall” to Flint town centre.

Niall Waller, enterprise and regeneration manager at Flintshire Council, said at the meeting: “We have to be aware of problems facing town markets today, as all markets are struggling.

“Street markets and all town councils change, and people’s shopping habits change with supermarkets, internet shopping and new trends.

“Similarly, a number of markets, not anywhere close and vibrant as they were, are at a similar loss in Flintshire, including Connah’s Quay, Holywell and Flint.

“We have to look at what we can actually do in general to street markets to bring benefit to the street. But we need to be small and sustainable. If we’re not sustainable we will be down to a (smaller) number.”

Mr Waller added that when Flint market relaunched to the High Street in 2011, at “peak times there were up to 34 stores,” which has now gradually declined to only a handful at best.

He said: “There is an option to do business but it is sad to say only a few (markets) stay for a long period of time. Trade is being lowered, and we are very conscious in Flint of the location, including the closure of the street on a Friday.

“Business owners worry about parking and trade, the cost benefit for a handfull of stalls makes it much harder for business owners.”

The general consensus between Flint town councillors was that while it was a shame the market was failing, it’s lack of efficiency and popularity was troubling.

Cllr Norma Davies said: “With relation to markets, a few specifics affect people in Flintshire. People can’t park in the street and shops in business complain about the traffic in Church Street backing up. From our position its hard to have a market functioning like that and its such a loss to the town.”

Cllr Brian Harvey agreed: “Officials have worked really hard to attract useful holders, but surely we can’t justify having Church Street closed. It (the market) is a focal point but has no longer got the ‘buzz factor’ and we need to move on.”

The matter will be discussed at the next council meeting after more reviews from the stall owners and further research by town councillors on the issue.

Cllr David Cox said: “The decision should be made for us by the market stall workers themselves. We would like to have a definite position on the markets and we need traders to be a part of the decision.”

Email:

beth.hughes@nwn.co.uk

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