Liverpool Council 'forced' to close St Johns Market - why has it closed and will it reopen?

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The market was subject to £2.5m renovation back in 2016, however, traders say the revamp 'destroyed the place'.

St John's Market has closed with immediate effect, with Liverpool City Council claiming it had no other option.

The local authority says it has been 'forced' to end the tenancy of 43 traders in the market, resulting in its closure, following a 'lengthy period of communication' with the businesses to recover more than £1.7m of unpaid rent and service charges.

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The market was subject to a £2.5m renovation back in 2016, however the result was heavily criticised, with local traders claiming the revamp 'destroyed the place' and then Mayor Joe Anderson initially offering traders three, then six months free rent as an incentive to stay and increase footfall.

Last year, a report, discussed by the Liverpool Council's cabinet, noted that the market was 'not performing as a commercially viable space' with many traders 'dissatisfied' with its performance. The report said: “The use of the market hall has remained very low and, despite the commitment of individual traders within the market, it is not performing as at present there is a high level of rent and service charge arrears owed to the Council.”

In 2020, rent and service charges were reintroduced to the traders after little improvement following the renovation and payments were expected. Many of did not materialise and under the new administration – which sought to improve the council’s collection rates – plans began to change and bills were called in last October. Liverpool Council says it had offered the business owners the option of negotiation over the repayment of the debt, but 'did not receive a meaningful response' and was left with 'no option' but to close the market.

Why has St John's Market closed?

Announcing the closure on Monday (March 11), a spokesperson for the local authority said: "As a result of non-payment, the cost to the council of subsidising the Market, which is leased from St Johns Shopping Centre, now amounts to around £1m a year. 

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"All of the businesses will be invited to arrange a date and time with the council to collect any stock left within the stall they operated from. One business has been making payments throughout this period and the council will look to undertake negotiations to relocate that stall."

An empty St Johns Market on Tuesday morning. Photo: David HumphreysAn empty St Johns Market on Tuesday morning. Photo: David Humphreys
An empty St Johns Market on Tuesday morning. Photo: David Humphreys

The council said that businesses had been informed that any arrears incurred between July 2017 and August 2020 had been written off and a reminder for payments was sent in January, 'with an adjoining letter inviting the 43 non-paying businesses to enter meaningful negotiations', within a 30-day deadline.

30 of the 43 businesses made a repayment offer, last week, of 33% for past and future costs, however, Councillor Nick Small, Cabinet member for City Development, said: "This offer does not represent best value to our residents and has been rejected by the council. Each non-paying business owner owes tens of thousands of pounds to the Council and we cannot continue to subsidise their businesses. We have a duty to collect and it’s not fair to continue in this way when we have vital services to protect and other businesses across the city are fully paying their way.”

Will St Johns Market reopen?

The council said it is 'committed to a viable and sustainable future use for the site and will now review all feasible options', however, it is unclear what is next for the market. The council has 63 years left on its lease for the market.

Is St Johns Shopping Centre closed?

The closure of the market hall does not affect St Johns Shopping Centre, which remains fully open for business.

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