Thursday, October 20, 2005

Public Consultation (do you feel consulted?)

What fate for the Glass Umbrella?
Do the outside stalls have to go?
Today was officially the last day of the Stockport MBC consultation into plans for what they call the Covered Market Hall. I prefer the name, "The Glass Umbrella". The consultation period lasted only a week, had no publicity or signage, was hidden in the back of the Produce Hall and was only accessible on three days so was hardly comprehensive. So don't let the Council's artificial deadline discourage you from sending an email to, or calling the Market Office on 480 7659. Whether it be to to critise or praise the plans, or to ask for information, it lets the Council know that people are interested and it can't bekept secret.

As well as contacting the Council, you can post your thoughts and ideas here. An online discussion of members and anyone else interested would help form the Trust's response.

I don't know if our Conservation Officer, Ray Preston, has been consulted.

I sent the following email this morning. I will tell you when I get a response. I posted it as an individual, with no reference to the Trust.

Dear Sir,

I visited the small display at the Produce Hall and would like to give you my feedback. My wife is a regular market shopper. She is attracted by the cheap prices and the fresh fruit and veg. I use the market less often, I am actually more likely to use Altrincham or Warrington markets during my lunch hour, but this has given me insight into how Altrincham has declined, while Warrington retains a large market.

The display presented 4 options:
the first option does not comply with the Council's statuary duties;
the second option defers the issue;
the third option is undesirable;
leaving Option 4.

I am not convinced that Option 4 is the only viable scenario. Consultation during or before the development of options would have been more constructive and might have led to a more imaginative solution. It would be premature to close down other options at this stage.

I could imagine, if carefully designed, an attractive and upmarket location could be created. But it is not just the building we have to preserve, but the Market. The Market's three main strengths are: its size; its variety; and its cheapness. Chip away at any of these and the decline will be terminal and we will have an attractive but empty square.

I do whole-heartedy agree with the objective of moving to 6 (or even 7) day trading and can see that this design will provide a very attractive amenity on non-market days. My concern is for the Market and for the relationship with the surrounding buildings.


The plans show a lot of space given over to cafes and restaurants. This significantly reduces the number of stalls inside the hall. Then there is the removal of a large number of permanent stalls. One of the reasons why traders pay to be inside the hall, is so that they have a permanent location where they can leave both their stall and their stock. That's why my neighbour gave up her external stall and now trades from 3 stalls inside the Hall.

Will traders pay the same rent as before, or will they be charged more for the better mess room and toilets? If so the traders will have to pass on their costs to the customers and that could be the end of the cheap market stalls.

As for the design, there are no artisit's impressions or architect's drawings, so it is impossible to judge whether the scheme preserves the unique character of the 'Glass Umbrella'.

In the ground plan one of the "sightlines and access routes to be reinforced and retained" goes straght through a stall and a wall. Is this a finalised ground plan or is it still under development?

I think there are the seeds of a good idea here, but not enough information has been provided to judge.


There is no reference to the external Market, or the square or the surrounding buildings. Has consideration been given to these?

It seems that all stalls adjacent to the Hall will have to go to allow for cafe seating or to allow the double sided stalls to trade. Is the plan to reduce the number of outside stalls or to move them out of the Market Place? Has a decision been made?

There is also space taken by the dlass roofed area for the cafe seating. I think these plans risk destroying the very thing they are supposed to be supporting.

I don't think the market can survive with just the stalls in the Market Hall and the Produce Hall. They need the external market stalls to provide adequate size and variety to attract customers. Option 4 seems to require a significant reduction in external stalls, or their relocation outside the Marketplace. I know the council has tried before to relocate the market elsewhere. Is this part of the plan?

What consideration has been given to the relationship between the Hall and the surrounding buildings? The glazed transparent facade may be nice for the cafe seating, but surely it is going to obscure the view of the Produce Hall and it's neighbours. Does that comply with planning regulations?

If a new glazed area is to be added, wouldn't it be far better if it was the Castle Yard? The Castle Yard could be developed to expand the market, providing new covered stall space, areas for cafe seating and, perhaps most importantly, serving to link the old Magistrates Court Building with the Market. The introduction of escalators linking to the Merseyway is a major development, but Option 4 shows no indications of trying to exploit this.


As far as I can see, the only publicity about the public consultation was an article in the Stockport Times. This article was enough to draw me to the Market specifically to see it. But nowhere round the market did I see signs about the consultation, not even in or around the Produce Hall itself. It was only thanks to the Stockport Times article that I hunted around the Produce Hall and found 4 notice boards at the back. Even these notice boards did not advertise what they were about. The first two boards were about the Market's history. Fascinating though it was, it appeared to be a history exhibition. It was only on the third board was there reference to changes being made and a consultation. It was almost as if the boards were designed to deter interest from the busy shopper.

Why choose the Produce Hall which is closed four days out of seven? It may be open on Market days but what about people who hear about the consultation through that article or by word of mouth and go specifically for the consultation? I put a piece on a website about this consultation. One of the website visitors tells me he went to the Produce Hall on three different days before he was able to see the exhibition.

I have searched the Stockport MBC website. There is one article about a consultation excerise aabout to begin, but offering no information on either the plans or the Produce Hall exhibition.

Will there be a larger and more publicised consultation excercise?

I hope you have found my comments useful. I would appreciate it if you would send me more information. I hope a fuller public consultation will take place before plans develop much further.

Stockport people are very proud of the Glass Umbrella. Developments should be an opportunity to engage the population and promote Stockport.

yours faithfully

Bill Hoad