TOWN centre chiefs hope to have a new market up and running in Hemel Hempstead by Christmas.
A meeting of businesses and residents was told yesterday about the need for a ‘better quality of market’, including the possibility of a French market.
The move follows criticism of the current operation by consultants charged with drawing up a blueprint for the future of the town centre, who said ‘the space is not used as best as it could be and the actual offer provided by the market stalls is somewhat restricted’.
Chris Taylor, group manager for strategic planning and regeneration at Dacorum Borough Council, told a meeting of the Hemel Hempstead Town Centre Partnership: “We are not reaching anything like the potential.
“We want to make sure whoever is running the market is a member of this partnership.
“We want to have a new market provider in by Christmas.”
She said the council would provide ‘uniform stalls’ and they hoped to work together with shops to create a mix of traders with stalls facing shops so customers can wander from one to the other.
The Town Centre Partnership, which includes businesses and residents, expressed a desire to run the market itself during the meeting.
Mrs Taylor said: “I can’t guarantee the option will be chosen.
“I’m hoping to attract more decent markets.”
Vince Williams, chairman of the partnership and manager of Marlowes Shopping Centre, said he had ‘plenty of ideas’.
“The board has agreed to put a bid in to run the market through a market manager,” he said.
He said market income would go into a new ‘not-for-profit’ limited company to ‘invest in the shopping zone’.
The market has been run for the past 10 years by Town and Country Markets Ltd.
Director Guy Rose said: “We enjoy an excellent working relationship with Dacorum Borough Council and are fully committed to Hemel market.
“At this time we feel it would be inappropriate to comment further on the market’s future.”
The market was struggling to survive until it was moved from Market Square to Marlowes in 2007 and there are now around 80 pitches in use from Thursday to Saturday.
Under town centre plans agreed by the council’s cabinet earlier this month work will get under way to clear up street furniture, overhaul planters, change the market stalls, ‘green’ Bridge Street with trees and set up a food court in Marlowes.
Other ideas for the town include closing Waterhouse Street to traffic, putting a ‘green deck’ on the Water Gardens car parks and building a stream down the centre of Marlowes.