Queen of the High Street, Mary Portas knows about retail. She probably knows more than Cllr Malcolm Kennedy (but don’t tell him that). So when Portas was invited, by the Government, to present a thorough, independent review on the future of our troubled retail landscape, Portas was unequivocal in her response: Make markets the heart of a regenerated high street.

So why is Liverpool intent on pushing ours to the edges?

Explaining the decisions behind her review (on www.maryportas.com), Portas points out how markets are essential in not only reversing our high street’s fortunes, but in encouraging young entrepreneurs into business, and in helping traditional retail attract a bigger crowd. Obvious, really.

“If you create a social activity, then business will flourish off the back of it, reviving the local area while offering young businesses and entrepreneurs a platform on which to promote and sell,” she says.

Portas points to her local, Broadway Market, as the perfect example of regeneration in action.

“It achieves an impressive footfall of more than 21,000 people each Saturday,” she says. “I remember Broadway Market in 2000, when it was three lonely stalls with tumbleweed blowing down the street. Seeing it today, I feel that it sums up what I envisaged when I talked about the regenerative power of street markets in my Portas Review for the Government. In this country we have no shortage of inspirational entrepreneurial talent.”

In Liverpool we’re sort of embarrassed by how much of it we have. It’s criminal that they’ve no route to market.

This back-to-basics approach – bringing market stalls run by entrepreneurial traders into the heart of any action plan – sits directly at odds with our own Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Malcolm Kennedy’s plans.

He’s intent on moving Great Homer Street’s market to the outer limits of Project Jennifer, well away from Sainsburys and the chain stores they’re hoping to attract, and on squeezing the available space down so drastically that traders fear 40 pitches will be lost. And as for growth? That’s not on the agenda.

Who do you think is right?

“On a market stall people can try out their ideas and get their business booming without too much cost. It’s great for our town centres too, bringing in fresh ideas and products, and preserving our nation’s cultural heritage,” Portas says.

photo-34Meanwhile, the traders in Great Homer Street have been told that, if they don’t move – from the street they’ve helped keep alive – in May they will have their licences removed and will be trading illegally. Meanwhile, the Portas review recommends relaxing licensing rules for market stalls to make it easier for people to set up stands.

So, while the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills rushes to launch pilot schemes to encourage the creation of street markets across the country, Liverpool is ejecting its longest-standing market to the edge of the new Project Jennifer scheme.

Could Liverpool be more out of step with current retail thinking?

“High Streets must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again. They need to be spaces and places that people want to be in,” Portas says. “High Streets of the future must be a hub of the community that local people are proud of and want to protect.”

6WZM_MHere are the facts:

Originally, traders were promised 300 stalls at the heart of the scheme. Last May Paul Batho, projects director at St Modwen, said “The provision of a new market facility in a prominent location has always been and remains a fundamental part of our vision for the rejuvenation of Great Homer Street. [We aim to] develop plans for a first rate, modern facility situated in the heart of the new scheme and forming an integral part of the retail offer.”

Fast forward to August last year, and traders were told there was now only space for 45 indoor and 27 outdoor (traders’ pitches, outdoor are typically twice the size of indoor) at the heart of the scheme. Currently, the market has 80 indoor and 95 outdoor stalls (many of which are three times the size of the indoor ones).

Naturally, the traders objected. If they’d have accepted it, scores of traders would have lost their pitches, their jobs, their families’ livelihoods. Some of these families have been trading here for 40 years. They’ve kept the community glued together.

On 29 August, traders were presented with three possible futures, at a Project Jennifer Stakeholders Group.

1) The whole market moves in May 2014 to Dryden Street and then back to the (reduced) new market facility in late 2016

2) The outdoor market moves to the east side of GHS in May 2014 and then the whole market moves to Dryden Street in early 2016 and back to the new facility in late 2016

3) A variation on either of the first two options where the market stays in Dryden Street and doesn’t move back to a new facility.

“Cllr Kennedy was keen to stress that nothing would be decided behind closed doors and that the shopkeepers would be included in the debate” – the minutes of the meeting noted. Yet, somewhere between the scheme getting the go ahead in 2008, and September 2013, the decision to reduce the market was made, without any consultation with Great Homer Street’s traders.

Traders, on both sides of the street, accept that their future probably lies down the road. Many are looking forward to the move, seeing it as a chance for Great Homer Street to, finally, have a fresh start – and to come together again.

But, with work not starting on the east side (the outdoor pitches) until late 2015/early 16, ‘east side’ traders want to stay where they are for as long as possible. Visit on a Saturday and you can understand why. This place just works. While all around has crumbled and withered, the market is still, defiantly, alive. Yes, it’s ugly: but that’s what years of under-investment at the hands of Geraud and the Council does to you.

They’ve been refused.

Traders want assurances that their new market location will have enough space for all of them (including those who trade from the shop units). Plans seen by SevenStreets show that this may not be the case. The traders fear they won’t have enough room to park their vans, the pitches have been reduced in size (often by a third), and – because the new location is slap-bang in the heart of a new residential development – they’ve been told they can’t bring their vans on site until 8am, when most traders set up by 6, ready for the first punters to arrive at 8.

And, of this £150 million development, how much do you think is being spent on the new market? 40%? 25%? 10%?

moor-market-sheffield-r261113-3Try less than 1%. In contrast, Sheffield’s just invested £18million in its gleaming new Moor Market (pic r)

This isn’t a story about Great Homer Street market. It’s a story about vision. About how, if we’re not careful, we’ll sell our soul – and the chance for real, long-term regeneration – for the small price of an out of town supermarket. Take a look at the Edge Lane development, see how well that worked out. This is retail thinking circa 1980.

Liverpool’s elected officers need to straighten their backs and fight for what is right and what is hard; not settle for the easy and the compromise. They need to look around, to see what’s happening in other, more enlightened towns and cities.

They need to read the Portas review; and they need to believe that the future of markets is the future for our city.

It’s where we came from.


SevenStreets asked for an interview with Cllr Malcolm Kennedy, to allow a full right of reply. He refused. Instead, we got some email answers. The Great Homer Street Committee’s spokesperson, Billy Darwin, responds below.

Why, exactly, has the market’s promised ‘300 traders’ space been reduced when – at the original planning application – you guaranteed the space?

MK: The 300 space market was suggested in the original proposals for Project Jennifer but would have been bigger than what is currently needed and can no longer be afforded in the revised scheme. The space that would have been taken by the market will now be offered as a retail unit.

BD: There are about 100 outdoor traders on Great Homer Street not forgetting the butchers wagon, and traders in the shops. An average trader takes 20ft with others taking 30- 40- 50 ft, so 300 stalls is a must – as was promised at the start of the project. This is our last good market left in the city under their 11 year mismanagement. What does that also tell you?

Why, if spend is tight, have you chosen the market as the fall guy, when it’s clear that the market is the only venture that’s kept the community alive? Why could their wishes not have been given equal consideration to Sainsburys?

MK: The change in location was driven by the traders themselves who wanted more space. Dryden Street gives us that. The trader representatives gave us the size / numbers of stalls they wanted and we have worked hard to deliver these requirements for them. With any consultation involving such a large number of traders, it is difficult to please everyone, particularly when they often have differing views and competing demands.

BD: The change in location was not driven by the traders it was driven by the Council, St Modwen (developers) and Geraud. Until September last year the traders thought they were getting 300 outdoor stalls in the heart of Project Jennifer. In a meeting the traders were giving the news that their space was being reduced from 300 stalls to 57-70 (which at best is only enough to cater for 17-20 traders.) This decision was taken without any consolation with any outdoor trader, some who have been there for 40 years. Their ambitions are not to be pushed from the heart of the project. It’s not difficult to please everybody – just do what was promised. The traders are the only ones out of this who are not getting what was promised!

Why were the traders not consulted on changes that directly affect their livelihood? Why were they given the new plans, in September 2013, with no prior knowledge of fundamental changes?

MK: They have been fully consulted and will continue to be.

BD: The traders were not consulted – as promised – about these changes. If they had, we wouldn’t be having this debate, at the 11th hour. And there wouldn’t be so much anger at the way the Council have ignored us.

Geraud states there are currently 95 outdoor traders, and 80 indoor. Many traders believe the new market, according to the plans they’ve seen, doesn’t have the space needed for these stalls – especially as outdoor stalls can be 30 foot long, nor their cars and vans. Do you disagree?

MK: Yes we disagree. The proposals for Dryden Street provide for 80 indoor stalls (2.44m x 1.83m), 178 outdoor stalls (3.05m x 3.05m), 157 car parking spaces and 61 van parking spaces. There is scope to change the actual mix of stall numbers and sizes and the split between car paring and van parking. There is also potential to make the market bigger if required using property already in Council ownership.

BD: The traders have been in meetings since September to say they want to be in the centre of the project, and that what was on offer in Dryden street wasn’t big enough for their vans and the size of their stalls. Also, it isn’t big enough for customer parking, and aisle space for getting around the market with buggies, trollies or physically impaired. There are also at least 50 traders in the shops who trade on a Saturday, and they have not been considered.

Why can’t the east side traders stay where they are until 2015?

MK: We don’t want to spilt the market and have visitors crossing the road when they can all be safely contained in one location. It will maximise the footfall for the market if we make it a destination in its own right.

BD: The East side (better know as the main market side ) is not getting developed till late 2015, so the traders don’t see any reason moving off the same spot they have been trading on for years to go anywhere temporary or permanent before this time.

These traders are getting pushed out of the heart of this development: the same people who have kept the area going for thirty years without any investment. For a double whammy, they’ve been told if they dig their heels in and try and stay after May 2014 the licence will be pulled and they would be trading illegally and arrested. Is that fair? If the traders could stay trading on their pitch, they’ll get a little security for themselves and family for the next 16 months. The shops could accommodate the indoor easily but that’s a view which is constantly getting dismissed to everybody’s frustration.

If the traders have to move to Dryden Street, do you think a spend of just £1.2 million on a new location in a £150 million project (less than 1%, in other words) says just how little the city values its markets?

MK: The city council does value its markets and is committed to making them successful.

BD: We believe the market should still be at the heart of, and funded by, Project Jennifer. It shouldn’t be funded by the Council to the tune of £1.2 million of public money, on a back street gamble. Especially when our great city has been battered by Cameron, Osbourne and the swingeing cuts from Whitehall.

Do you not think it would be far safer and easier for the indoor and the outdoor on the west side to come over to the east side till autumn 2015 – there is enough space, as agreed by Geraud.

MK: No, we do not think this. We have carefully considered all the options and we believe that the proposals that we have put forward are the right way to build a thriving, successful market.

BD: Unfortunately consultation with the traders concerning the market on Dryden Street has broken down due to the council refusing to talk to the committee representing all traders and shop keepers on the east side (main side) of Great Homer Street, this can hopefully be resolved with the Council seeing sense and realising the traders are not just going to lay down and go away. They have put to much into this area and deserve their views to be heard.

We Would also like the council to take this into account – what happens to the shops who are open 6-7 days a week so the locals can get their basic day to day items? Do they lose out to Sainsburys too? The shops keep the community going, even if it’s for a local resident just going for a browse to get some company or a chat. What happens to them when the market goes and they have to survive a extra 16 months before they can get relocated in the new development without the extra income the market brings on a Saturday?

You can read the headline recommendations of the Portas Review here

Read our previous post about the issue, for background information, here

You can read about what the Markets Alliance thinks here

12 Responses to “Mary Portas: Markets are the High Streets of the future”

  1. paul connolly

    Yet another diatribe on the state of our markets. Yes, they are woeful – i don’t understand the councils’ adherence to Geraud any more than you do, But what’s to be done about it? Sick of the apathy in this city on some issues, There needs to be a campaign for change. Easy for me to say, i don’t have the experience or skills in that area. It’s over to you. Borough market in London i admire for one.

  2. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time the new ‘market’ is in place it has been reduced even more, with the Council trying to explain it away due to cuts etc!! The whole agreement with Geraud stinks of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’, after all it’s not like we’ve a track record of being involved in this kind of shody joint venture, Liverpool Direct anyone? ‘Greaty’ is a fantastic market at the very heart of a community which provides local residents, and some further afield, with a chance to meet up, have a natter, keep in touch and keep community spirit alive, but I guess none of that matters so long as the right palms are being greased!!! I also believe Broadway Market is going very soon, apparently due to refusal to renew the licences of traders and the lease, how shortsighted we are!!

  3. Portas is living in a bubble I’m afraid and its not her ‘local’ market as she lives in Primrose Hill. (There are several ‘everyday’ markets she chose not to highlight between her house and Broadway). Broadway Market is a hipster hangout attracting wealthy middle classes from across the city and tourists from around the world. Its the Disneyland of markets and it makes £££ by the bucket. Incidentally the hipsters and the cash they were creating forced out the traditional market stalls and some of the local and older stores on the high street.

    Unfortunately most of the everyday markets sell a lot of tat and they’re not going to attract the same crowd that will make it viable for a ‘young entrepreneur’, nor bring the cash and the ‘regeneration’ that is do desired.

    Incidentally, Liverpool has a fantastic market – its on Lark Lane once a month, I think it does what Portas dreams of: it brings in cash to the area and helps Lark Lane thrive. Unfortunately even that doesn’t have the footfall to happen on a more regular basis. (I was told by one trader that it was tried but cannibalised sales and made it unviable).

  4. I used to really enjoy reading Seven Streets but you constant obsession with Greatie Market and your hate campaign against Cllr Kennedy isn’t just boring and tiresome. I’ve realised you’re living in Cloud Cookoo land as well. Do you shop at Greatie? It’s been selling tat for decades. Do you care what the people of Everton and Kirkdale want? They’re crying out for a decent supermarket and shopping centre but you probably haven’t bothered to ask any of the residents. This all feels a bit like “I’m middle class and I know what those poor people really need”. Get off your high horse and face facts – Great Homer St desperately needs this development and can do without patronising, middle-class meddlers messing it up.

  5. John D, whatever you think and you are coming across as a bit of a stuck up tory boy yourself Greaty is famous because of the market and along side a new development could really be something special for the area and city to be proud. if you are from that area you would know that’s its the traders who have kept that area going without any investment what so ever and I didn’t hear residents complaining that the market was a shit tip then, I called you a tory boy because that’s what people do turn the back on the working class when a bit of dough turns up. the fact that the market looks scruffy is because nobody from the council as been arsed in that area and that includes not giving a shit for the residents in fact they haven’t give a shit for 30 years, the council have got a chance here to invest in proper stalls making it neat and tidy next to the shops with the same atmosphere and character it as now on market days, if you are from that area id be a bit ashamed if I was you, potentially dozens of small business could go under because of Malcolm Kennedys ruthless decisions and mind set like yours. Im made up Seven Streets are saying it as it is good on them, your not from that area your a imposter and how I know is because everybody does want this project but they all say the market should be in you haven’t said that once Tory Boy, your never a scottie roader in a million years because you would never have them views being brought up a socialist, look forward to your reply. KEEP IT GOING SEVEN STREETS A GREAT STORY TO FOLLOW!!!!!!! PITY THE OTHER MEDIA PEOPLE OF OUR CITYARE TO COUNCILIZED TO SAY IT HOW IT IS!!!!! #GIMPED

  6. JD Moran

    My girlfriend’s parents who are from outside of the city are working class and I would say 80-90% of the weekends they visit, they make an effort to go to Greaty Market and have done for years. Would they visit the Everton/Kirkdale areas were it not for this market? Would they visit the area just to visit Sainsburys or Wilkos or Home Bargains or Poundland or Boots or whatever other shops will be sited at the new development? No, because they would not be unique to the area and can be found elsewhere.

    I don’t think anyone is saying don’t let a supermarket be built here but why should it be at the sacrifice of the one group of people who have kept the area alive for trading over the last few decades?

    Anyone who thinks Greaty Market sells only tat is marking themselves out as someone who seems like they don’t even go ever let alone rarely.

  7. A market is part of this community ,dragging people from all over the city and afar to the area. B+m, Costa, Boots, Sports Direct or whoever shouldn’t be threatened my a market (which is famous) once a week they should work with it and enjoy the extra trade of thousands of people that will be shopping in that area, No brainer if the managers of these shops have a brain. I Couldn’t agree with you more JD Morgan.

  8. That’s advertised well I didn’t know it was there…. its not run by Gerauds market by any chance?……So let part of Liverpool’s heritage be ripped apart and people lose their jobs and income and all go and eat in a French restaurant once a month in lark lane. I’m not having ago but I don’t see your point and this is why….I wasnt aware of a market in Lark Lane but I will visit it now and if its interesting and as a good feel about it I will return again and again, would I cross the city to Allerton Road to shop? No because its the same shops as by my house there is no attraction like the market brings to greaty or lark lane…… So Lark Lane and the business there now have a new customer because of the attraction of its market…Ill enjoy eating my croissant while I stroll through the stalls and shops thanks for making me aware it was there.

  9. david_lloyd

    I don’t know where to start, John. The people of Everton and Kirkdale? You represent them, do you? It’s where I’m from. I have family there. The people of the area are as diverse and complex as any other area. But they’ve been left to rot – if it hadn’t been for Greatie, and the friary, the place would have died years ago. The market isn’t somewhere you’ve been to, obviously – as it sells exactly the same stuff that Sainsburys sells. Only cheaper. And the money goes back into the local economy. And it doesn’t employ people on zero hours contracts. I’m sort of staggered by your ignorance, and your arrogance.

  10. Laurence

    It feels like the respective groups have retreated to their corners here. Think it’s time to stop the accusations towards one another and work together for the greater good. Personally I feel the area needs this development and we’ve been promised it for years. I realise the traders have some real concerns and the council have a an they want to deliver. Is there some room to compromise on both sides? To be honest though, I don’t this Mary Portas has the solution. The people who visit Greaty do it for what it has to offer. If they want something different, they will go elsewhere. Think £1m investment t is £1m more than the market has got now, and after the funding cuts announced yesterday, at least there is something on offer. I would like to know where both sides would be prorated to compromise for the good of everyone.

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