War of words over markets
10:00am Friday 25th January 2013 in Latest News
Devizes town councillors have expressed anger and frustration that, after months of negotiations, Wilt-shire Council has refused to transfer the running of the town’s markets to them.
Councillors at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the town council’s community and civic resources committee were restrained in their comments, but it was clear they were unhappy about their treatment by Wiltshire Council.
Mayor Kelvin Nash said: “I am disappointed with their attitude and especially with their lack of consultation.
“There are things that happen in the Market Place and we have no idea about them until they happen.
“If they would only communicate with us – if there was two-way dialogue we might be able to suggest better ways of running things.”
The situation arose after Wiltshire Council approached all town and parish councils in the county last year and asked them if they were prepared to take over responsibility for services in their area.
The town council immediately responded, expressing an interest in taking over ownership of the Market Place and the Shambles market hall, and asked for information to enable it to put together a business case.
Months passed without response until, just before Christmas, Carlton Brand, Wiltshire Council’s corporate director of resources, replied saying he was unable to supply the figures the town council requested.
He wrote: “We have difficulty in estimating future costs associated with both areas due to the fact that the timescale for repairs (for instance for the resurfacing of the Market Place) is nigh on impossible to predict, and the very high costs of such works which can dwarf any running costs.”
Mr Brand added: “As an example, the resurfacing and rearrangement of the Borough Parade car park in Chippenham cost in the order of £220,000 some six years ago and repairs to the Shambles cost £300,000 recently.
“Experience tells us that the more significant market traders much prefer to deal with one organisation in Wiltshire and that by having one point of contact we are able to attract more traders to our markets.”
He concluded by saying that the ownership of the Market Place and Shambles should remain with Wiltshire Council, but there could be regular meetings between officers of the town council and Wiltshire Council.
Deputy town clerk Simon Fisher said: “I have made clear to Mr Brand we are very disappointed.
“Wiltshire Council just would not listen to any rational argument. But they have agreed to set up a meeting with the town clerk.”
Coun Margaret Taylor said a long-term approach to the problem might bear more fruit.
“She said: “We should be prepared to go more slowly over our proposals.”