Portadown market traders ‘insulted’ at lack of consultation by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council

Traders in Portadown’s Farmers’ Market say they are ‘shocked and insulted’ after comments at last week’s Council meeting.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 9:41 am

They had been trading in the large covered market in William Street but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a dispute with Portadown 2000 which ran that market, the traders moved to an outdoor location in William Street and then to Thomas Street.

Since the ‘Service Level Agreement’ with Portadown 2000 to run the market ended, the council has been working on contracting new management for the market.

The Council plans on using part of the car park at Magowan West for the new market but traders who are currently in Thomas Street prefer a covered market option.

The Farmers' Market in William Street, Portadown during inclement weather earlier this year.

Portadown 2000 is a private company and owns the building which houses the historic covered market in William Street.

Last week it transpired that five expressions of interest were received from parties interested in operating and managing a market. However, after a public consultation and the advertisement of a tender in May/June, no tenders were received as part of the procurement process.

During that committee meeting, Councillor Lavelle McIlwrath asked if Council had consulted with the former market’s traders.

The Council’s head of regeneration, Nicola Wilson said Council has had a ‘busy summer’ talking to traders and businesses through its consultation hub but had not been involved in direct consultation with the previous market’s traders.

“In relation to the consultation with the existing market traders, we have not done that as we did not think it was an appropriate thing to do,” said Ms Wilson.

“They are looking for a covered market space and that is not something we are going to be able to provide for them.

“We have spoken to a lot of the town’s traders and a lot of the traders along Woodhouse Street as well to clarify what we really want.

“We will soon be in a position to go out with a tender that is more precise and detailed, I think that was probably one of the stumbling blocks in our first attempt to get a market provider in.

“We are looking for an appropriate organisation to come in and provide the market service and that agent will be the one that will be liaising with the markets traders to try to develop what they need within the offering they have.”

The Farmers’ Market traders are upset at being left out of the consultation.

A spokesperson said: “Considering that some of the traders have been faithfully serving the public in Portadown for over 40 years, which is longer than a lot of other town traders, how was it not appropriate to consult with the people that it effected the most.”

The traders, after last week’s council committee meeting, made an urgent request to the council to agree a date to meet.

They also started an online petition which has over 200 signatures.

The petition states: “The council has now sought to move the market to a new open air location in the town.

“It is neither fair nor reasonable to expect traders and customers, many of whom are elderly, to spend large amounts of time shopping outside in all the inclement weather conditions in this region.

“Customers would simply refuse to shop in wet and windy conditions and traders are unable to trade in bad weather and would lose income.”

At the time of going to press, the Council had not responded to a request for a response.