To consider the request from Councillor Rust.
At the invitation of the Chair, Councillor Rust presented her item to the Panel, as included in the Agenda. She referred to vacant shops in the town centre, how small and new businesses could be encouraged into the town centre, support for start-up businesses and pop up shop opportunities.
The Assistant Director explained that this was a national issue and needed careful management. One option could be to procure expertise to look at this in more detail, but it may well need subsidising.
The Chair, Councillor Collingham felt that it was important to have a scheme in place and there were lots of spaces in the town centre that could accommodate opportunities.
The Portfolio Holder for Business, Culture and Heritage explained that vacant units was a national issue and the idea of pop up shops was something that could potentially be looked at by King’s Lynn BID, of which he was a Board Member and the Borough Council was a levy payer. The Borough Council also needed to define their role in any schemes, for example would they have a ‘hand-up’ or ‘hand-out’ role and caution would need to be exercised.
Councillor Bambridge made reference to the Markets Informal Working Group which had previously looked at trying to reinvigorate the Market offer and recruit a Market Toby. She felt that offering small and new businesses the opportunity to have pop up market stalls would be a good idea.
Councillor Spikings commented that the Market was important and shouldn’t be allowed to die, opportunities were being missed if the Council did not act now. She referred to the huts used for previous Christmas Markets and suggested that these could be used for pop up stalls to promote new businesses.
The Chair suggested a trial event, perhaps to tie in with a Christmas Market, to promote local and small businesses.
Councillor Beal commented that internet shopping had a detrimental impact on High Streets and a visit to King’s Lynn needed to be an experience and that the Council should work with the owners of vacant units to explore opportunities.
Councillor Bone felt that a lot of the units in King’s Lynn could be too big for new and small businesses and suggested that an Emporium type shop, based on commission, could be set up where small businesses could hire a small space in a bigger unit.
Councillor Morley suggested that officers produce a pilot package for Markets and start up units which could be considered by the Panel at the next meeting.
The Vice Chair, Councillor Gidney commented that a Christmas Market which appealed to families and included entertainment would be a good place to start. He asked if there were statistics available on new businesses, vacant units and trends. The Assistant Director explained that this was something he could look into providing.
Councillor de Whalley commented that a better market offer would draw people into the town centre and felt that a post-pandemic strategy to revitalise the town centre and the market was necessary. He also hoped that the BID could look into the provision of pop up shops and start up units.
Councillor Bambridge commented that competition on the market was a good thing, for example one of each type of stall should not be limited.
Councillor Whitby suggested that the first step should be to look at the demand, then options could be considered.
The Chair, Councillor Collingham hoped that plans to deliver a Christmas Market could be considered as the first step, promotion was important and it should aim to showcase local small businesses. She asked the Panel to consider a recommendation to Cabinet to take this forward.
The Portfolio Holder for Business, Culture and Heritage, Councillor Middleton explained that he would take the comments of the Panel back to the Cabinet, officers and the BID so that options could be considered and a Working Group of Councillors could be involved if required. He commented that a potential market could tie in with the Christmas Lights Switch on event.
RESOLVED: That the Portfolio Holder for Business, Culture and Heritage consider the comments made by the Regeneration and Development Panel and report back to the Panel on progress as appropriate.