TRADITIONAL street markets across Northumberland are in line for a new “harmonised” look as part of a drive to revive their fortunes.
An action plan has been drawn up by council bosses under a new strategy aimed at restoring open-air markets as important elements of the county's shopping experience.
Markets are held in nine of Northumberland's main towns, but have been suffering since the 1990s from a drop in customers, dwindling numbers of traders and a lack of quality.
The new strategy - aimed at rejuvenating the stalls amid claims that some are at risk of folding - is expected to be approved by the county council's executive today.
Markets are held in Berwick, Alnwick, Morpeth, Hexham, Haltwhistle, Ponteland, Ashington, Bedlington and Blyth, and various attempts have been made in recent years to arrest their downward spiral.
Ashington Market recently moved to the town's pedestrianised shopping centre and on Thursday Bedlington Market will switch from a back street car park to the revamped Market Place.
The markets strategy seeks to create a ‘dynamic market experience that is diverse and vibrant’, which adds value to the economic, social and cultural fabric of Northumberland.
A report to today's executive says one of the aims is to improve the look and feel of markets, including developing a new image for the events and, where possible, to harmonise stall design and displays.
Funding opportunities will be sought to buy new stalls and canopies to make markets look more attractive to customers. The action plan also includes trying to encourage start-up businesses through concessions on market stall fees, trial trading opportunities and help with business planning.
A business support programme run as part of the markets has now been put in place.
The strategy also involves setting up more local market partnerships, at Berwick, Hexham, Ashington and Bedlington, to provide a forum where organisations can share concerns and discuss proposals and issues relating to markets.
The report says action has been taken to improve promotion of the markets and set up a programme of community events to run in conjunction with them.