Market experiment set to end

A SIX-month trial introduced to boost a struggling market could be dumped once it expires, despite calls for it to be extended. The trial, which set a reduction in the rents for market traders at Hitchin s Tuesday and Saturday markets, was introduced on A

A SIX-month trial introduced to boost a struggling market could be dumped once it expires, despite calls for it to be extended.

The trial, which set a reduction in the rents for market traders at Hitchin's Tuesday and Saturday markets, was introduced on August 8 and is set to run until January 21 next year.

Yet despite stall utilisation rising, and the numbers of visitors to the market increasing, plans to dump the trial and revert back to pre-trial rent levels are one of three options to be discussed at North Hertfordshire District Council's Cabinet meeting on December 19.

This option is a worry for some, with Cllr Judi Billing, the chairman of the council's Hitchin area committee, saying it would be a step in the wrong direction.


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Cllr Billing said: "Everyone can see that the vibrancy of the market and the morale of both traders and customers have improved over the last three months.

"We should be encouraging this better mix of stalls and cheerful atmosphere. It would be absolute madness to stop the scheme at this point and plunge Hitchin back into the worst period of economic doldrums for many years.

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"Other towns are leaping ahead of Hitchin in terms of economic investment and regeneration opportunities.

"Hitchin's ancient market is at the core of what the town has to offer and it's a classic case where the council has to invest now to save later."

Other options open to the council include extending the trial for another six months - which will leave the council with a potential loss of around £30,000 - or to extend it for another year, with potential costs of £60,000.

Since the beginning of the trial the market has attracted 75 new traders, of which 40 have stayed on. A report by the head of leisure and environment services Cllr Ian Knighton says this has cost the council over £37,000.

Asked about the council's preferred outcome, a council spokesman said: "The six month trial ends in January and the December 19 Cabinet will review the position, but until then we would prefer not to speculate on the outcome.

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