A long-serving market trader in Lincoln claims business owners are being let down by a lack of investment at the Central Market in the city centre.
Steve Sharpe has been running a fruit and veg stall in Lincoln for over 30 years, starting as a Co-op tenant in the former outdoor market before moving to the Central Market on City Square a few years ago.
He said he faces a possible closure if trade does not drastically improve.
Steve told The Lincolnite he feels the market is 50 years out of date, and is putting pressure on the City of Lincoln Council to ‘fulfil promises’ such as previously tabled wooden cabins, investment and promotion.
The council has argued it has undertaken a number of initiatives to increase footfall and is in the process of bidding for funding.
It comes amid trading challenges from many High Street sectors across the county – a threat which also puts an onus on business owners to drastically diversify and innovate.
Steve said: “There were 30 fruit and veg stalls when I started, but through supermarkets and other factors this went down to two after 25 years.
“I am the only one based inside the market, the last remaining farmer growing and selling fresh produce in the market.
“We were doing okay before when the bus station was next to us, Savers was down the street and all the shops were full. It was a busy area, but a lot of the buildings looked tired.
“When the Cornhill was renovated we were told by the Co-op three years ago that the city council would accommodate us. Supermarkets are taking over, it is difficult, but the council are not helping. Nobody is on a level playing field.”
Steve claims the council broke promises of giving some of the traders wooden chalets, which the council said is no longer a ‘viable option’.
He added that traders have been waiting a long time for the heating and air condition in the building to be fixed.
Steve said: “I want to know where things are going. Are the council going to invest in the market or not bother? It feels like we’ve been fobbed off again.
“Lincoln is the capital of Lincolnshire, a prime agricultural area of England, but the city council can’t provide a better market area. There is potential for more here, but they’re not interested.”
Steve put up a banner in frustration on the market’s 80th birthday.
He was soon told to remove it by the council, who he said he is still waiting for a meeting with from six months ago over his future in the market.
Difficult trading conditions
Recreation Services Team Leader at the City of Lincoln Council Antony Angus said: “We recognise that trading conditions have been difficult for some time now, not just for market traders but for retail in general.
“To help and support our traders during these difficult times, we have not increased lease rents at the market for over six years.
“We have also undertaken a number of initiatives to boost trade including: Love Your Local Market week; celebrating the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Central Market; advertising the market on the Bus Station video wall; featuring the market in Your Lincoln magazine; creating the Lincoln Markets website; establishing a regular outdoor market offer on City Square and providing a pop up trading opportunity within the market hall.
“We explored options for wooden cabins as part of some wider design work. Unfortunately the cabins proved unviable, but the rest of the design work will be used towards funding bids.
“We have great plans for Lincoln Central Market, but we are only at the start of that journey.
“We will continue with our funding bid and consult with traders on any proposed improvements.
“We pride ourselves as having great relationship with our traders, and we will always keep them informed of any developments, as well as trying to help them maximise their business opportunities.”
Antony Angus added: “It’s come as a surprise to read these comments, as we are in regular contact with the traders at Lincoln Central Market and nobody has come forward to us with any kind of complaint.
“It isn’t true that we revoked an agreement to advertise the market on the Bus Station screen. We have been placing adverts for the market on there during late 2018, and plan to have more in the near future.
“It is also inaccurate to say that we have increased rent for traders, as we have not done so this year nor for the past four years.
“We wrote to all traders less than two weeks ago to apologise about the heating and to inform them that it would be repaired from February 4. This will be done in the evenings to minimise disruption for the traders.
“It is disappointing that it has taken this long to get fixed, but the problem has now be identified and repairs should only take a matter of days once started.
“In the letter we also referred to the Future High Street Fund as a potential source of funding for the development of the market, and we will be submitting our bid in March.
“The council prides itself on having a great relationship our traders and we truly believe this hasn’t changed. We always encourage them to contact us directly with their concerns, and we will always try to hold regular discussions to discuss matters face-to-face.”