Two headlines in last week’s papers will have left readers somewhat confused about Doncaster’s economic prospects for the next few years – the first “Market trade worst in years” and the second “Town gearing up for a bright New Year”.
The latter appears to be largely based on a questionable £100,000 investment to see a horde of unidentifiable cyclists whizz past bystanders on public roads, no doubt annoying road users as they do so. But let’s return to the more important problems facing Doncaster Market.
The borough has an enviable list of tourist attractions including the Racecourse, Wildlife Park, Mansion House, Conisbrough Castle and the Vulcan. Yet the historic market, dating back to the time of Richard I, is perhaps the most significant. When it was revealed in 2012 that Doncaster had more day visitors than Blackpool, it was clear that the market played no small part. Every week its 400 plus stalls have attracted thousands of people from a 50-mile radius. Its reputation has been such that it was voted Best Market in Britain in 2011 and Britain’s Favourite Market in 2012. In that same year council officers identified £1 million to improve it still further.
Many traders believe that the money has been totally wasted and see deterioration rather than the promised improvement. As usual, public money seems to have been squandered and no-one is ever held to account. It certainly appears that the market is suffering once again both in terms of care and promotion. Unfortunately it is adversely affected by other problems. The centre of Doncaster is a disgrace – litter remains uncollected, litter laws are not enforced and few if any fines are handed out. Anti-social behaviour has resurfaced nearby, with shoppers forced to sidestep yobs and drunks. In short, the town centre is grubby and unappealing.
Doncaster’s unique retail offer is dependent on the success of its market. There are hundreds of shopping centres all over the country but there are few markets on this scale and of this quality. A thorough clean-up of the town and more free parking would do wonders to revive this ailing asset.
n Among the spivs, political toadies and other assorted nonentities included in the increasingly disreputable New Year’s Honours List was the former Climate Change Minister Ed Davey, now Sir Ed. He was responsible for the closure of Hatfield Main Colliery and the end of the Don Valley Power Project when, against all expert opinion, he did not shortlist the project for the carbon capture and storage competition, depriving Doncaster of almost 5,000 jobs but refusing to explain why. This unwarranted honour is a prime example why the devalued system should be scrapped.