Stratford businessman calls for markets to compete on a level playing field

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A Stratford businessman has attacked the district council over the way it handle’s the town’s markets, claiming that they are not giving rate-paying businesses a chance.

Dave Matthews, who runs Magic Alley in Bell Court, believes the council has created an unfair playing field where rate-paying businesses on Waterside and Henley Street are struggling to compete with the markets on those streets.

Dave said: “Stratford District Council are guilty of perpetuating the Amazon effect, the market operator LSD pay rates for Rother Street but not for Henley Street or Waterside where they hold markets, yet the businesses down there do, it’s not a level playing field.

“If a market stall is selling confectionary outside a confectioners or food outside a business selling food, yet the market is not paying rates, how it that fair? How can they allow it?

“It’s not giving businesses in town a chance.

“I’m not against markets at all, I actually started working on a market stall, however they need to add to the town rather than detract from it and we simply have too many markets that are not specialised enough.

“The Friday market on Rother Street is great, so is the antiques market and the farmers market, however the markets that are not specialised on Henley Street and Waterside bring nothing to Stratford.”

Mr Mathews was prompted to speak out on the issue this week after seeing a tweet from the council encouraging Stratford’s upcoming Waterside Market.

“The Tourism Information Centre at Bridgefoot is not promoting town businesses effectively, yet the council is promoting the markets on twitter.” He said.

“I think there are an awful lot of businesses in Stratford who hate the market and will hate it when it moves to Bridge Street.

“I think SDC are terrified of breaking their contract with LSD, but I simply think the contract was ill thought through to begin with. Now that there are going to be changes with the relocation of the Waterside Market, I think there should be the option of renegotiating that contract.

“I would like to see SDC consult with businesses to make sure the market is not affecting their trade. Stratford still has a vibrant town centre compared to other towns of its size, we’re still doing really well but it appears that the council are not supporting that.

“If we had more specialist markets, like a second-hand book market or a flower market that would be brilliant, they would bring something new to the town and encourage more people to visit, but the current markets simply are not offering anything different from the current businesses in the town.

“The market is a business bigger than any other in town and it’s not paying rates.” A spokesperson for Stratford District Council said: “In October 2017, the district council, in partnership with Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council, contracted LSD Promotions to provide a diverse mix of markets to increase footfall into Stratford-upon-Avon town centre and enhance the local economy.

“The district council is pleased with the start LSD has made to fulfilling these commitments.

“While the district council collects business rates, it does not set them or decide who pays them, this is the responsibility of HMRC.”

The council confirmed that although LSD does not pay business rates for its markets on Waterside and Henley Street, it does pay a licence fee to hold markets in the town.

Stratford’s high street suffered another blow this week as news that Aspire on Wood Street is to close its doors on Friday, while Outfit, which trades on the Maybird Retail Park, will cease trading on 20th September.

While some town centre businesses may be unhappy about the market, shoppers and market traders have been complimentary about LSD’s arrival.

Former operator Geraud was the subject of much criticism during its term in charge of the markets, with traders unhappy about a perceived lack of market promotion and poor organisation.

LSD Promotions were unavailable to comment on Dave Matthews’ criticisms of the district council concerning the markets.