A major funding boost has been handed to a town-centre market, as part of grand plans to attract more people to the historic cobbled square.
Northumberland Estates has agreed to waive the annual licence fee that company Alnwick Markets pays to use the site, for a period of three years.
It is welcome news for Alnwick Markets, which is also behind a development plan which aims to bolster the fortunes of the Market Place.
This vision includes creating new jobs and training opportunities; greater promotion of the Markets through signage and advertising; more music and entertainment in the Market Place through the summer season; further development of the Sunday Craft Market, including the Pop-Up Gallery piloted this year; at least two weekend festival events each year, building on the 2015 Taste of the North event; and special incentives for traders at the Farmers’ Market, to attract new traders to Alnwick and to encourage more stallholders to trade on both Thursday and Saturdays.
Reflecting on the development plan and on the Estates’ waiving the licence fee, Philip Angier, chairmam of Alnwick Markets, said: “This is terrific news for everyone who cares about our town centre. We began discussing ideas for encouraging greater footfall into the Market Place after the publication of the Mary Portas report in 2012.
“More recently, we have won support for our plans from the town council and the Town Team. We have just submitted a funding bid to the recently-launched Leader Coast and Lowlands Programme.
“To have such significant financial backing from the Estates is a terrific boost to our overall plan.”
Northumberland Estates agent Rory Wilson said that the licence fee has been waived because the Duke wanted to ‘back the efforts of Alnwick Markets, the Town Team and the town council to promote and animate Alnwick Market Place’.
Town mayor Bill Grisdale and Coun Gordon Castle had made a personal appeal to the Duke to support the plans, saying that they wanted to see the Market Place ‘become a focal point for the town centre’.
They added that the vibrancy of the town centre, and the Market Place in particular, has been a keen talking point in the formation of the draft Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan.
The Estates’ support has already proved beneficial.
Dawn Watts, markets manager, said: “We have already been able to buy additional signs and banners and to introduce new winter incentives for traders at the Farmers’ Market and for our regular weekday markets during the summer. We have been able to take on a new market assistant on a permanent contract.
“If our bid to Leader is successful, the next steps will be investment in a vehicle and stall equipment and the creation of a new job to promote our summer markets and to maximise the benefit of market days as a visitor attraction and for the whole town.
“Just as important is the support of the townspeople of Alnwick. We want a thriving Market Place all year round, not just during the tourism season. We need local people to back our excellent regular market traders and to make local shopping a priority.”
The Pop-Up Gallery has sold almost £2,000 worth of paintings, crafts and prints in the past 12 months.