The report before Members provided an update on the Market Transformation Plan.
The report detailed the physical transformation and improved use of the market space, branding, identity and vision, business growth and development of market offer and the operational management.
Included in the report was a timetable showing an indicative programme for the procurement and construction phases.
Members were advised that planning permission had been granted for the Market House and agents had been appointed to secure a pre-let for the unit. Four contractors have been invited to submit a full tender to build the Market House. Officers advised that there were two strong contenders, one of which had already opened negotiations. Once the tenders had been evaluated a decision would be taken whether to proceed or not.
Marlborough who were the principle contractor for the utility works would be invited to undertake the Public Realm works if the works progressed.
The provisional programme for the works had been submitted and it was anticipated that everything would be completed by June 2018 if the decision to proceed with the transformation was taken.
Cabinet at its meeting in November 2016 had given an in principle approval to the proposals. This decision had been called-in and referred back to Cabinet for reconsideration. At its meeting on 16 December 2015 Cabinet had re-affirmed its decision.
Officers had prepared a tender specification for the development of a new market brand and identity and final preparations were being made to launch a tender exercise for the appointment of a marketing specialist.
The events which had been organised in the run up to Christmas had seen an increase in footfall and officers were preparing a programme of events for 2017 commencing with activity over Easter.
Having established a baseline which showed the average weekly footfall was approximately 142k, a growth strategy would now be developed in line with the vision.
A new Market Manager had been appointed in January who was focusing on a number of key transformational areas. These included a trader incentive scheme to support recruitment and retention during the construction phase and developing an operational plan to accommodate and relocate existing permanent traders who would be displaced during the Market House build.
Members commented that they had concerns at the overall programme for improvement encompassing the East End, Market House and West End, car parking and public realm. Members sought and received clarification to indicate where the decision to proceed had been taken, together with full details of all the proposed works.
Members felt it would be useful to carry out an in depth review of the proposals with officers providing full details of all approvals showing clearly what proposals had been approved and by whom, a detailed business plan supporting the proposals and a detailed budget indicating clearly where funding had already been approved, this review would be undertaken before any tender was let for the building of the Market House.
During the debate Members commented that they had concerns that the planned transformation might not be enough to save the Market as Romford itself, as a town centre, lacked attractiveness to visitors and was in need of regeneration.
Officers advised that the Council was in the initial stages of drafting a masterplan for Romford which would include details of the regeneration of the whole of Romford both commercially and residentially.
Members commented that the market currently offered nothing different from other areas and mentioned markets in Camden and Borough that were well established and drew in visitors from across London.
Members suggested that the town’s shopping centres impacted on the market’s viability and that shoppers were more likely to attend other local shopping centres that offered extensive and free parking provision.
Members also questioned as to why the transformation works were taking place before the masterplan for Romford had been drafted.
In response to a question regarding the publication of the masterplan for Romford, officers responded by commenting that it was hoped that the masterplan would be drafted by the end of the current year.