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Southend High Street Market could go the way of York Road Market if we’re not careful

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Development Control CommitteeWednesday, 2nd August 2023 at 2:00pm 

Much as we have written into the Southend Confelicity manifesto about bringing back markets into the high street, it is not something that nearly the whole city hasn't already suggested!

It is probably one of the unanimously agreed ideas amongst residents for our high street, and so it is a very welcome sight indeed to see it moving forward.

However, like anything that starts from scratch, it is easy to criticise and pull apart the market like two councillors did at this meeting, characterising them as ‘woeful’ and ‘pathetic’. 

There are people investing their time and effort to get this off the floor and this very meeting was to expand it’s opening times to take that one step further. 

Aside from defending people I’ve never met and who probably don’t need it, what I suspect is that, like myself, the two Councillors and their colleagues were unaware of the long-term plans for the market otherwise their responses would have been more on the lines of ‘this is just the start’. 

Opening times

Although their line of questioning seemed perfectly valid from an outside perspective, their questions were apparently in the wrong meeting at the wrong time.  The only aspect they were supposed to be agreeing was the extended opening hours - everything else regarding the markets was just the same.

Despite this, the councillors continued to ask questions about anything other than this!

One was a question about the safety of pedestrians if a market trader wanted to leave early.  The answer from the officer was that the person on CCTV would do it. Eh? Yes, you heard it correctly, it would be done remotely i.e. no one present! Hmmmm, odd management style, but the paper wasn't agreeing this anyway, so...

There was also the contradiction in the report between the length between the stalls and shops, which was batted off by the officer with a ‘if I keep just saying words that will be enough’ inner-monologue. It worked, not worked.

There were concerns that it could affect trade in existing businesses in the high street and there was no consultation with the BID or high street businesses. The officer’s answer: 'our legal consultation was vastly more than required'! Well that’s that settled then!

The author of the ‘pathetic’ comment proposed deferring the paper until adequate answers came back, and I could sympathise with the officer after the several’th time saying that’s not what they’re voting for!

In the end, the officer had to apologise for putting more detail in the report than should have been the case because that was not what the councillors were voting on. Moreover, some of it was seemingly wrong or not well thought out, but they’d seen it, realised and were asking unwanted questions, and he needed them to stop because he caused what he thought would be an easy ride into a bit of a problem he couldn't get out of!

Fortunately, with the addition of so called ‘informatives’ to the report, it was agreed 13 to 1 in favour.

Long-term plans for the market

Being that not even councillors seem to know the plan, I thought it worth quickly commenting on what I hope they’re doing and what probably needs to be done.

Thriving entrepreneurship is the foundation of a successful local economy and the whole city should be alive to the opportunities the market presents.

The market doesn’t have to be physically big yet, but it does need to be interesting and different enough that it’s worth coming back for with friends and family.

We need as many unique products and services as we can pull together, so we need to work super hard to encourage local people from all ages and walks of life to take their skills and knowledge into the outside world. 

We need to launch this entrepreneurial drive big, but cheaply. There's so much talent out there, we just need to let them know. As tacky or crude as it sounds, let's even introduce Southend's version of 'The Apprentice’ with the local media companies to get people interested. Anything that leaves no budding entrepreneur unturned!

I would want to know where can I sign up? How much? What’s the support? Is there a website? Is there a forum where we can all share ideas? Who’s in charge? Will my idea make it? Who can give me business advice?

The market also needs a name.  It needs to have its own identity. The Southend Market will do, but I’d almost be tempted to call it ‘York Road Market’! Or ‘New York Road Market’! Either way, people need to be able to refer to it when they talk about it. Along with the name it needs a logo/emblem and tag line. Run a competition for local artists to design it. Basic thoughts I know, but none of this needs to be complicated.

It needs strong social channels as it’s the most fluid way to speak to people. I feel sure it would draw interest quickly.

Fundamentally, whilst the backbone of the markets will come from the regulars who do the circuit buying off wholesalers, the market's future will depend on how much we, ourselves, can utilise the golden opportunity here.

Best ideas

Even the best ideas can go bad if not done right, and the last thing we need is to conclude that markets are bad because we tried and it failed.  York Road Market was once a good idea and was destroyed by neglect, bad management and a lack of pride and ambition.  If we’re not careful we could head straight back in that direction if we don’t get behind this and do everything we can to make it work.

I hope the council knows precisely what they are doing and they do have a grand plan. I believe it might be in their interests to let everyone know the plan, least of all the councillors.

Southend wants this to work and it can. None of this ‘woeful’ and ‘pathetic’ please. Self-fulfilling prophesies may present some sense of self-satisfaction, but we need much more from our councillors than that. We need positivity and practical, first-hand experience of what's working and what needs to improve. We need to get stuck in and work in partnership with the city and we may just be able to make it one of the jewels on our crown in years to come.

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Tris Bee
Tris Bee
04 sie 2023

Hello Sir,Love your name concept for the new markets name

Having watched the full debate I agree with your views totally.

Seems one Leigh councillor was determined to kill the market at all costs!,shameful.

The market must have some elements so unique and for every budget large and small.

They say entrennpenures don't come from market stalls, remember Southend Marks and Spencer started this very way.

It won't be easy or unrisky for new ventures, but far better way of way of starting out than a shop with huge overheads.

Southend is a city of ambition and vision,njust like our party.

Let's LLet's


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