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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Lessons from Chorley's Market

Chorley Council have responsibility for the management and operation of the town's market. Competing as it does with the usual spread of supermarkets including Booths - the market is a vibrant focus for the community. A diversity of traders surround the market together with cafes and bars in a mainly pedestrianised zone. The market itself is full with hardly any vacant space - and not a mobility scooter dealer in sight. Bright colours and lighting, clean flooring and plenty of space to walk in between the rows of stands. No grazing places intrude on public walkways.

All of this contrasts with the run down state of Abingdon Street Market which has seen far better times. Only the exterior would appear to have had any investment in its facade - whilst the interior presents a wholly depressing experience lacking even the most minimal attempt to make the place something more than a revenue stream for the private company which owns and operates the venue. One which is seemingly devoid of professional experience in retail 'marketing' and abject lesson on how absentee landlords inevitably lead to extinction of any quality venue dependent on public spend.

North of Blackpool Fleetwood's Market similarly has seen better times. Once the destination of choice for coach day trip operators - Fleetwood's venue is in the hands of Wyre Borough which similarly is lacking any creativity whatsoever in its management of which could be and should be an essential visitor beacon in the town centre. Other than obligatory signage of a minimalistic nature - the Market precinct and approach is devoid of any external colour, banners, special lighting effects and paving. A bland interior similarly totally lacking design features and elements necessary to bring in new (ie younger) generations - is left to fend for itself in a frozen timewarp. The demise of BHS in Britain's town centres (including Blackpool) signals the fate of retailers who ignore changing trends and marketing approaches to bring in the punters. There are of course eminent signs that the fate of BHS may well justly be laid at the doorstep of its previous and final Owners - subject of Parliamentary Committee due diligence shortly.

But the contrast between Chorley Market and the offers in Fleetwood and Blackpool could not be greater. Whilst nearly two millions pounds are being spent on the design for heritage use of a relatively small part of the Winter Gardens - in a form still to be revealed by the small army of 'experts' paid to come up with a 'Museum of Blackpool' - a hundred yards away an even more important part of the town's commercial centre descends into lines of empty stalls and oblivion. Next door the grand facade of the General Post Office Building has a 'For Sale' sign on its frontage further adding to the general feel of malaise and urban decay which has hit this part of Blackpool in recent years; and in particular a once thriving Abingdon Street. I won't go into the cancerous spread of 'charity' shops the latest being a Barnados frontage opening in recent days.

There may well be Council officers in Blackpool and Wyre who hold down a title and responsibility for the wellbeing of these facets of their respective communities. No doubt receiving salaries for the said purpose. It seems this is money for old rope, given the results of their efforts of late. A salient lesson would be for designated officers to take a bus or train ride to Chorley to get an eyeful of what a forward looking Local Authority is able to achieve in Lancashire with a thriving local market providing a well managed local retail anchor (and not another supermarket chain). Lessons to be learned in Chorley by Blackpool and Wyre LAs.

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