Council seeks new manager for local market as agreement with Portadown 2000 to end

The future of Portadown 2000 as managers of the local market hangs in the balance as Council offers the opportunity to others.

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 12:16 pm

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon said a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Portadown 2000 to run the market for a number of years, will come to an end on March 31.

Now the door has been left open for others to run the market with the Council offering an Expression of Interest (EOI) for the operation and management of Portadown Market.

It is understood some councillors were unhappy at the level of funding ABC Council was giving to Portadown 2000 each year to run the market. It is understood to have been around £37k per year.

Millennium Court Arts Centre. INPT09-205.

Some public representatives felt there may be more creative and cost effective ways to deliver a market for Portadown.

As the SLA is about to end with Portadown 2000, it is understood the council felt it was time to open the doors to alternative arrangements.

Council hope to have reached an agreement with the future provider of the town’s market in time for this summer.

Historically, an indoor market was held at the corner of Market and William Street before moving to its premises on William Street at the turn of the 21st Century.

Interested parties are advised Council currently has two market sites available for the running of the weekly market, the Fairgreen car park or Magowan West car park.

Other sites may be available in the near future and Council will consider permitting any prospective operator to use its private facilities, either indoor or out.

Council is keen to see the market operate twice per week with optional daytime or evening operational times.

The deadline for EoIs to be submitted is 2pm on Thursday, February 25.

At the time of writing it is understood the board of Portadown 2000 are yet to decide if the organisation will partake in this process.

A spokesperson for Council confirmed this is an opportunity for Council to consider the the future operation of the Portadown market.

“The Expression of Interest process is an opportunity to explore and engage on the future operation of Portadown market,” said a spokesperson for Council.

“Council is seeking to engage with prospective operators about providing a market operation that responds to the needs of Portadown.

“The feedback received through the process will shape the future tender which will be publicly advertised following the EoI process.”

The spokesperson also explained that Portadown 2000 never held a licence to operate Portadown Market.

“Council and Portadown 2000 historically had an agreement for the provision of multiple services, of which the market was one of them,” said the spokesperson.

“However, there was no licence.

“Council is looking forward to the opportunity of exploring and engaging on the future operation of Portadown Market through the Expression of Interest process.”

For it’s part Portadown 2000 has said it “regrets” Council’s decision to end the present arrangement and reiterated its commitment to serving the people of Portadown.

“Portadown 2000 was formed by a group of concerned individuals in 1998 following the devastating IRA bomb blast which devastated part of our town,” said a spokesperson for Portadown 2000.

“The purpose then was to regenerate this part of the town and create a shared space for all - the first of its kind in Portadown, during that difficult time in our towns shared history.

“This same ethos exists to this day.

“For a number of years it has been well documented in the local press that there have been various issues with funding for our core services provided to the community by our organisation.

“The company regrets that Council has proposed to end the present arrangement. It is hard to escape the conclusion that there is an ambition in some quarters to withdraw from the centre of Portadown.”

The spokesperson continued: “We have been working for a number of years to face these challenges, and to face the challenges of significant change in retail and town centre usage.

“Change can be difficult but change, however unforeseen, can also be an opportunity to develop something fresh and exciting for Portadown.

“The company is committed, without reservation, to serve the Portadown community as its priority.”

The council emphasised its awareness that towns across the borough face significant challenges as they reopen post lockdown, when the true impact of the pandemic will become more apparent.

A spokesperson said: “To address this, Council is taking proactive and targeted actions to stimulate recovery and regeneration by supporting local traders and businesses, with a view to fostering the right social and economic conditions to drive sustainable long-term growth.

“This strategic focus was a key part of Council’s decision to seek EOI’s for Portadown Market, based on an emerging need to rejuvenate and enhance the existing provision. This open call is seeking to explore new operational models, ideas and opportunities, with a desire to increase footfall and boost Portadown as a shopping destination.

“As part of Council’s Strategic Framework for Growth and Recovery, this regeneration project aims to provide a mechanism for engagement and focused investment in a way that will positively benefit Portadown, and its local community into the future.”

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Kevin Savage said: “Last week, Council launched its Recovery and Growth Framework that sets out a series of aims to meet the immediate needs for economic regeneration within the borough. It addresses key actions linked to boosting tourism and footfall in towns, and delivering support to business of all sizes. The EOI for Portadown Market is part of this strategic vision, and it is hoped that it will provide a catalyst for transformational change, to set it on a path of renewed inclusive growth and prosperity.”

“This is an excellent business opportunity for the area, with Council seeking interest from prospective market operators with a proven record of accomplishment in running markets, or similar enterprises. Applicants must also have experience of marketing markets, maintaining the area and supervising traders on a weekly basis. Joint bids will be considered where specialist expertise can be demonstrated.”

The Expression of Interest (EOI) document is available to download here: https://www.armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk/eoitowncentremarket/

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