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Market operator handed new contract

MARKET operator LSD Promotions has been handed a new five-year contract – despite unhappiness about how a council tried to justify the decision.

Markets in Stratford (47497507)
Markets in Stratford (47497507)

Cabinet members on Stratford District Council voted to extend the contract last week. But the authority’s use of a Stratforward BID survey to claim widespread support for the markets has been called into question.

The survey, conducted in March and April, was only completed by around a quarter of town centre businesses, with the results showing a roughly 50-50 split between those who believed the markets harmed businesses and those who thought otherwise.

However, in a report to the cabinet, the council claimed the low response to the survey showed 76 per cent of businesses must either support the markets or have no view.

Business owner and BID board member Steve Halford spoke out at the meeting against the council’s methodology.

Telling members he had permission from the BID to speak on its behalf, he said: “The BID request a decision on the markets contract be deferred until the next cabinet meeting.

"The BID have not had opportunity to meet and discuss the survey results and they have not had the opportunity to comment on those results. The BID carried out a survey under pressure of time to meet a deadline set by the council and during that period all non-essential retail was closed and virtually all hospitality was closed due to government restrictions.

“You conclude that as 76 per cent of businesses did not respond to the survey during the national lockdown that those businesses must have no view or a positive view – that, to me, is a wild and unsubstantiated assumption. It’s like saying anyone who did not vote in an election must have supported the winners.”

LibDem Cllr Jenny Fradgely told the meeting businesses had expressed concerns to her about the way the survey had been carried out.

However, Cllr Ian Shenton and Cllr Matt Jennings argued Mr Halford did not have authority to speak on behalf of Stratforward BID and that senior BID board members raised no concerns during a meeting last week, describing the markets as a "dead issue".

Cllr Shenton added: “As far as I’m concerned, there is no need to delay this decision. We’ve already delayed it twice to give them time to put the survey out. If we delay it further it there won't be enough time to get it in front of cabinet and council and it won’t change anything. These are the results.”

Although Stratrford's Rother Street market has caused little tension with town centre businesses, the regular Waterside markets are a cause of friction, with some businesses saying they damage footfall, block key attractions and harm the town.

Cabinet members unanimously voted to extend the contract.

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