Deal struck on Lancaster Market but cost is still unknown

Deal: Lancaster Market could be brought back into use after being returned to its owners following a long-running saga
Deal: Lancaster Market could be brought back into use after being returned to its owners following a long-running saga

It’s a deal.

Lancaster market has finally been returned to its owners in a deal that could have cost taxpayers millions.

Lancaster City Council has not revealed how much it cost to buy itself out of the 99-year lease it agreed with Allied (Lancaster) Ltd in the mid 1990s, but previous estimates put the deal at up to £20m.

The market was controversially closed last September, forcin many traders to move into new premises in Lancaster, although they did receive compensation from the council.

Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce said that the deal, which would see the building brought back into use, was good news for the city.

Councillors voted to close Lancaster Market in November 2011 as part of efforts to reduce annual losses on the lease, totalling around £650,000 per year.

The closure was blamed on financial mismanagement on the council’s part, as well as increasing rents and failing confidence in the market.

Compensation was agreed with all traders when they moved out, but many were furious by the way the situation had been handled.

Darren Sharp, managing director of Allied (Lancaster) Ltd, which owns the Marketgate site and is based in Marble Arch, London, said: “The building is now back in our control and we’re trying to get it let.

“It’s been quite a sensitive issue, but it wasn’t really our problem.

“We’ve come to a deal with the city council, and now we’ll do our best to get it re-let as quickly as possible.”

Claire Chapman, chief executive of the Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce, said:

“The market has been empty for a bit, and as far as the chamber is concerned, this is good news.

“It’s a key building in the city centre, and we’re supportive of anything that adds to the retail offer of the city, as well as enhancing the visitor offer.

“We’re looking forward to seeing it back in use.”

Mark Cullinan, chief executive of Lancaster City Council, said: “We are not in a position at this time to answer your questions in full.

“We can confirm, however, that the council has taken various steps to ensure that over the long term, the closure of the market and the surrender of the lease will result in savings for the council and its tax payers.

“These steps include taking due professional advice and liaising with the council’s external auditors.”