Government takes action to protect London's market stalls

For the first time the Government is taking on the role of protecting traditional markets in the face of increasing pressures threatening their long-term survival, Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton announced this morning. Markets are a nationa

For the first time the Government is taking on the role of protecting traditional markets in the face of increasing pressures threatening their long-term survival, announced Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton today.

Markets are a national tradition, and London boasts a wealth of famous and, in some cases, ancient markets, like - to name just a few - Covent Garden, Berwick Street, Borough, Camden, Leadenhall, Portobello Road, Smithfield, Old Spitalfields, Greenwich, Columbia Road and Petticoat Lane, to which in recent years have been added the increasingly popular farmers' markets. But the growth of out-of-town supermarkets, discount stores, internet shopping and the current economic climate have caused a prolonged decline.

To ensure that the traditional market survives, the Government is taking action to support street, covered and farmers' markets; in recognition of their significant economic and social benefits.

The Government will champion the interests of all markets with a new body that will bring together key government departments, representatives from the retail markets industry and the Local Government Association. Communities and Local Government will lead the group and assume the strategic lead for markets across Government.

Rosie Winterton said:

"Lots of us enjoy a trip to the local market - almost every community has one. They are part of our heritage and bring communities together. Some traditional markets even date back to medieval times and are the reason why many of our towns exist. For example, my market in Doncaster is one of the biggest and finest markets in the North and has been around since the 13th century.

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"Markets also play a vital economic role in the local community, from providing jobs and business start-up opportunities, to often offering cheaper produce and attracting shoppers into the town centre.

"While the rise of out-of-town supermarkets, internet shopping and the current economic climate have made life more difficult for markets, they still have the potential to thrive.

"That's why we have promised to champion the traditional market, raise its profile and ensure the industry has a voice across government policy."

The Government believes that markets are an important part of the strong retail mix that town centres need to attract shoppers and provide consumer choice. The new body will report to Rosie Winterton and Minister for Food Jim Fitzpatrick.

Jim Fitzpatrick said:

"Street markets offer some of the best value produce to be found. Markets are filled with healthy, tasty food, and are also a great place to discover some of the unique regional and speciality foods that you might not have been aware of.

"I am delighted that the government, councils, and street markets are going to work together to preserve an important part of this country's heritage which is also of great benefit for consumers."

The Government agrees with the Committee that successful markets played a valuable social and economic role. This includes:

* Offering consumers cheaper produce, particularly for fresh food.

* Promoting town centres by bringing a stronger retail mix and encouraging consumers and added footfall for the whole centre.

* Offering new businesses a more affordable way of starting off in the current climate.

* Providing local jobs with flexible hours for people working part-time.

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