How the pandemic has helped to return people to Calderdale’s markets

Increased occupancy of stalls following the easing of COVID-19 lockdown has seen markets in Calderdale’s towns play a bigger role in people’s lives, councillors heard.

The pandemic has seen a lot of markets around the country cease trading for the duration but although raising significant challenges for Calderdale Council, which operates them, all six of the borough’s markets have been able to operate during the pandemic.

Markets manager John Walker said the virus had brought a very difficult scenario for all markets because of safety measures which had to be introduced with a resulting £150,000 shortfall in income.

Planning and some innovative thinking between staff, tenants and traders had enhanced services that could be available during lockdown and continued as more businesses were allowed to return, members of the council’s Markets Working Party heard.

In particular, Hebden Bridge and Elland were back at 100 per cent occupancy, and Brighouse, Todmorden – within a 60 per cent safety limit – and Sowerby Bridge markets, the latter eventually to be demolished, all showing increased open market stall occupancy, or increased occupancy on certain days.

Halifax Borough Market has been most affected with considerably reduced footfall numbers – stable at 5,000 visitors a day but that is around 30 per cent of usual numbers – attributable to people who are shielding and homeworking, the latter significantly obvious at lunchtimes.

Soon it would be back at 75 per cent occupancy – but in context that was the lowest in the borough market’s history, said Mr Walker.

The working party also discussed a second agenda item about Halifax Borough Market and stall upgrades in a private session.

But the other five markets had seen good footfall in the circumstances, in some cases more traders, and demonstrated people valued local services in the pandemic.

“What it suggests is people aren’t moving far from their own community and supporting that local economy is quite important.

“That’s why there has been a little bit of success,” he said.

Todmorden Market Hall’s tenants’ association had reacted swiftly to lockdown issues by partnering with Shopappy to introduce a delivery service for every trader, including those on the open market, including some deliveries – more than 2,000 over nine weeks – made by an electric cargo bicycle courtesy of locally-based delivery service Cargodale.

At Todmorden’s open market, service days had gradually been reinstated with, as at other markets, social distancing arrangements and layout systems put in place, albeit at the cost of a reduction in trading space.

Mr Walker said the outer markets had seen a growth in occupancy.

At Hebden Bridge, back at 100 per cent occupancy, the community had been “exceptional” in supporting it.

“One morning at 6.30am there was a queue at the fishmonger’s and they had socially distanced themselves.

“It shows the importance they place on the market.

“Hebden Bridge has been well occupied, well attended by the public and it’s been safe,” he said.

Elland Market, back on its old site, was now 100 per cent occupied there were another four or five traders wanting to join.

“Elland is resurging back and a lot of local businesses are starting to use the market,” said Mr Walker.

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Coun Rob Holden (Ind, Ryburn) said he had driven past both Hebden Bridge and Todmorden Markets and seen the responsible the way people had conducted themselves.

“On the whole, the markets are definitely well managed and quite well behaved from a customer point of view,” he said.

For the Calderdale service it had been a grim six months and it still faced some hefty challenges – this was time the council should use to make sure it was fully ready to encourage new traders to fill up the markets when the situation improved, said Coun Holden.

YorkshireLive – Halifax