The Farmers Market was located in Grattan Sq six years ago by DTC as a temporary measure as plans were being drawn up for a rejuvenation of the Square. At that time the advantage to local business from the Council’s perspective was that an artisan market brought colour, variety and a range of product to our town which would improve Dungarvan’s status as a market town and a destination for shoppers. It was understood that some members of the market would sell product that directly competed with that already sold by rate payers. With this borne in mind it was broadly accepted that the Farmers Market on the whole would be positive for both the business and community life of our town.
The feedback the Chamber has received from our membership is that the Farmers Market has diverged from these original goals for the following reasons
The majority of the space taken up by the market is by the vans the traders use to transport their goods. This is not common practice in any other market where space is at a premium, e.g. Moore St in Dublin, or further afield in continental markets. We would suggest if the traders wish to keep their vans that close to their stall an appropriate location would be to move them to Walton Park where space is expansive. All day parking is available for a nominal charge in Scanlon’s Yard after stalls have been stocked.
The fare on offer at the market has diverged from the original envisaged from a farmers market. The coffee and “organic” vegetables are neither grown nor harvested by those selling them nor are they produced in this country. Both these offerings are available from existing ratepayers.
It has been brought to our attention that at least six applications to join the market have been refused on a variety of grounds including origin of the goods but more worryingly from the consumer’s perspective because the fare offered by the prospective member is already sold by a current member. This stifles competition and keeps prices to the consumer artificially high. Ratepayers in Dungarvan compete on a day by day basis to offer the best prices to the people they serve. If any ratepayer engaged in such rigging of a market they would be breaking the law and prosecuted accordingly.
The traffic flow in Grattan Sq was improved last year. A great opportunity exists to locate the market to the heart of the Square and traffic can easily move around it due to the new one way system. This new location would then not disaffect kerbside parking in front of any particular business or give undue increase in footfall at the expense of one to another.
Casual trading should occur on one day only. It is the vehement opinion of the Chamber that hawkers bring nothing to our town and parasitically reap the rewards of ratepayers contributions and give nothing back. There seems to be no assurance of the quality or origin of what they sell or their tax status.
In conclusion casual trading in Grattan Sq is seen a benefit for our town by the majority of Chamber members but should be solely within the remit of a “Farmers Market” showcasing local produce, local crafts and local businesses. The present arrangement has become self serving and exclusive to the detriment of variety and competition. Casual trading needs direction from the Town Council. The Town Council need to be the body who decide the criteria for entry to the market not those involved who are obviously conflicted. For example the local ICA has an excellent weekly market which could readily join with the Farmers Market. All local schools have transition year students who would relish the opportunity to have a stall promoting their enterprises. Local businesses could be invited to join if their fare meets the criteria set down by the Council.
Looking at the bigger picture a huge opportunity exists to have a Christmas market in our Square which could involve all ratepayers and approved casual traders. Previous joint initiatives between the Chamber and Town Council prove our town has the infrastructure and the “can do” attitude to make something like this happen. Markets like these are common on the continent and this could be a first for Ireland here in Dungarvan. The knock on effect of new shoppers making a weekend trip to Dungarvan would benefit everyone.
Dungarvan Town Council and its elected representatives have a responsibility to it to take leadership on this issue. The need for new bye laws governing casual trading in Grattan Sq presents a fantastic opportunity for our town to make use of its infrastructure and showcase what we have to offer to our shoppers. Experience to date has shown that it is popular among shoppers but must be policed to benefit all stakeholders. DTC is the only body who can properly carry out that function.
Any new bye laws introduced by Dungarvan Town Council must be applied, fair, transparent and most importantly represent the interests of the many and not the few.
29th May 2010