I spotted an article tonight on the front page of the Walsall Express and Star – unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available online, so I’ve scanned it below, mistakes and all: in it, I assume that the reference to stalls remaining in the High Street (second para.) means the current marketplace and the reference to Walsall Market (fourth para.) is a typo for Walsall Council. Do you think we could go halves on sharing a proofreader, chaps?
(Later edit and Sod’s law alert: the article appeared online just after I posted the article. It can be found here)
It would seem that although virtually dead, there may be a little hope for the market after all. This may come as a disappointment for some, not least Doug Birch, who sent this letter to the Walsall Advertiser in February, the gist of which appears to imply that the market has little historical basis, is past it’s best and doesn’t fit in with the Utopian ideal of the proposed Tesco development, therefore we’re getting rid of it.
There’s some really excellent regeneration-speak in that letter… I note we all have ‘Regeneration aspirations’, the market must, imperatively, ‘connect with the retail sector in the High Street’ and that ‘Silver Street is of vital importance to the big regeneration picture.’ – what it all amounts to is that the market is in the way, doesn’t fit with the ideal they’re selling us and that we’ve all got to smarten ourselves up for when Tesco eventually decide to come and save our forlorn little town.
There’s just one problem – the only thing that prevented Brownhills from becoming totally moribund over the past decade or so was the market; people were bussed into the town for free on market days – and they connected with the retail sector by spending money elsewhere in the town when they came. Now the death of the market has been prematurely announced to the world, even less people are coming here and trade is suffering. Meanwhile, plans for the Tesco development have still yet to be submitted, and there’s talk in a couple of Express and Star reports that it’s being scaled down due to the credit crunch. (Sorry, these don’t seem to be online and I neglected to save them, so you’ll have to take my word for it.) The implication of this scaling down is rumoured to be that the proposed apartments and whatever bits don’t immediately benefit profitability now probably won’t happen.
What rankles most is that leading members of the bodies representing the town are already talking about the new store as if it’s been approved already, ‘when [it] comes online’, as if it’s a done deal. Don’t usual planning rules apply here, or will the whole thing go through on the nod?
Yes, the market is very troubled, it needs sorting, and soon. Walsall Council seem to be dedicating a huge amount of time and cash trying to save Walsall Market, yet ignoring the one with the bigger reputation in Brownhills. I know that Brownhills Market is run by a private concern, but since a private partnership is on the table for Walsall, surely a similar accommodation could be made here. As to fakes and dodgy gear, this problem must be surmountable; other borough town markets don’t have the problem, what’s different? Is it beyond the wit of officialdom to enforce the same rules for Brownhills as say, Walsall or Bloxwich?
John Bird wrote a couple of excellent letters to the Advertiser on the subject of the market and its’ decline; the first is here, and the second here. I like his proposals, but they don’t seem to fit in with Doug Birch’s latest thoughts on how traffic should be managed in Brownhills, but more of that another day.
On a side note, Tesco do seem to be being a tad furtive about their plans for Brownhills; there’s a couple of ambiguous development ideals posted on the council website, and they showed a design in the store in Brownhills recently – but only for a short time, not nearly long enough for the people of the town to see it. What’s the secrecy? Is there anything to be gained by people only having vague ideas as to what the proposals actually entail?
What really concerns me here is that if Tesco don’t feel like being as benevolent as we’re all being led to expect, Brownhills will become Tescotown, just like Darlaston became Asdatown, and we’ll have lost even more of our independent assets; local shops, local market traders and local pride.