At the same time, Barnsley Council has also told members of the town’s group of the National Market Traders’ Federation that outside consultants are being called in to help give the market hall’s image a face-lift, just months after it opened.
Research by the Local Democracy Reporting Service has confirmed that Barnsley Council has written to eight traders, who have found themselves in trouble for failing to open their stalls for the full six days required under their leases for the new market hall, or for closing too early.
Barnsley Council has declined to reveal the contents of those letters, because they follow a format which the authority pays to use, but the Barnsley group of the NMTF say they were sent from the council’s own solicitor, warning those receiving them were in breach of their lease.
Group spokesman Kieron Knight said the problem resulted from poor trading levels leaving stallholders unable to pay staff.
Barnsley Council disputes that and describes trade as ‘bustling’.
The Glass Works market hall opened in the Autumn of last year and is deemed a key element of the full complex, which is still under construction and will feature conventional shops and leisure outlets.
But Mr Knight said traders have struggled with a stipulation which insists they open for a full six days’ trading, because customer levels did not justify such long hours.
He is now expecting some to pull out of the venture when they are able to activate a ‘break clause’ in their contracts, after two and a half years.
Mr Knight said: “The majority of traders are not happy about working Thursday, when there is no trade in the town.”
Stallholders were also expected to remain open until 5pm, he said: “Again, they are not happy about it. Target customers have left by that time, after 2.30pm or 3pm customers are very thin on the ground.
“There isn’t really an audience at 4.30pm or 4.45pm, the town is deserted.
“It all impacts on their profits, hence why there are empty stalls. What should be the most exciting time in a generation for the markets is turning into a nightmare.
“When people have a break clause after two and a half years, I expect some will take it because they cannot sustain six day working. They don’t have the trade to be able to afford staff.
“They are not getting any quality of life,” he said.
Markets management met with the Barnsley NMTF group this week, and members were told the authority was calling in outside consultants to find ways to improve the market’s image, said Mr Knight.
One area highlighted for attention was signage, but he said suggestions made by traders early in the process of creating the new market had been ignored.
“How much will it be costing to pay for consultants?” he said. “This is taxpayers’ money they are spending. Traders made lots of suggestions about what they wanted to see.”
Traders were also told the council is now also looking for a bar operator to take up a unit in the new ‘Market Kitchen’ food mall, which so far has three traditional cafes in place.
The council’s aim is to create a varied selection of refreshments, offering healthy options, to help attract a wide range of visitors.
Barnsley Council says the requirement for market traders to open six days a week was part of its requirement to ensure the ‘best possible experience’ for shoppers.
The market hall is regarded as a lynchpin of the new development, with entrances thrust out to the main precinct, rather than being hidden behind shops as they had under the old arrangement.
Barnsley Council was determined the town should keep its market, likening the new hall to a department store, when other towns and cities have seen theirs struggle to survive.
Speaking in response to claims that the arrangements were forcing them to open when there was little or no trade, and that those who had closing on quiet days or closing early had received warning letters from a solicitor, Coun Roy Miller, cabinet spokesman, said: “We have a requirement to ensure that the market is operating consistently so that customers get the best possible experience of Barnsley Market.
“This means that all of our traders open on the same days and at the same times and adhere to the market’s opening hours - an agreement they entered into with the council when they signed their leases. This is the same for all traders in the market, and is an approach that is supported and encouraged by the National Market Traders Federation.
“The market is enjoying bustling trade. Footfall increased by ten per cent in December 2018 on the previous year. With more of The Glass Works set to open this year, including the new Market Kitchen, Library @ the Lightbox and cafÃ©/restaurant Lounges, the market will continue to be busy.
“We’d like to encourage people to continue to support our fantastic traders by shopping locally.”