The Tory-run Harborough District Council performed a rapid U-turn last night and threw out plans to lease Market Harborough Market Hall to a national retailer. The Liberal Democrat members on the council had consistently opposed those plans.
I welcome this news. When I was a councillor back in the 1980s and voted to redevelop the town's old cattle market, the provision of an improved market hall was an important part of those plans. I welcome large retailers coming to the town, its attraction to shoppers lies precisely in the balance if offers between national chains and individual retailers.
Putting the retails market under threat would have destroyed that balance. The alternative plans for the retail market never looked convincing and the public outcry was greater than any I can remember in the town.
The Harborough Mail quotes one traders as saying:
"I thought it was amazing that so many councillors voted for it when it was only a matter of weeks ago that they all seemed to be for it [leasing the Market Hall], apart from the Lib Dems."And over at the Market Harborough Liberal Democrats site Phil Knowles says:
''An 18,000-signature petition, traders' rally, public march and public meeting plus a widespread campaign have won the day. People felt that they were being ignored and that the Council's controlling group were ploughing on regardless.
"The Liberal Democrats called loud and clear for a rethink of the path that the controlling Tory Group seemed determined to follow. At long last they seem to have listened. They pulled back from the closure suggestion and supported a plan that gives the Market Hall, the traders and residents the opportunity of a secure future.''