TRADERS should look at what they can do themselves to bring more customers into Darlington’s markets, as well as expecting the council to make improvements, a councillor has argued.

Councillor Paul Harman told a meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s place scrutiny committee that he felt some traders did not realise just how radically the market needed to change if it is to survive.

The historic Covered Market is the subject of a review by the place scrutiny committee to look at how it can be improved with an eye to keeping it sustainable in the face of modern shopping habits.

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Informal talks have taken place between council officers, councillors and traders in the market hall, with more formal discussions planned at the town hall.

At the informal talks traders raised concerns about parking around the market hall and suggested that parking enforcement officers are a little too ‘enthusiastic’.

Traders also asked for the market hall to be painted, for the market to be more widely promoted around the town and to be better integrated with the outdoor market.

Councillor Harman said he had concerns that some traders did not realise the role they had to play in improving the market’s offer to customers.

Referring to a discussion he took part in at the town centre conference, held in March, Coun Harman said: “This review is going well in my opinion, but I was a bit disturbed when I attended the conference and sat in on the markets group discussion.

“I don’t think some of them realise how radical the refurbishment of the market needs to be. People are still stuck with nostalgia for a market arrangement that no longer works in a modern economy.

“People are apt to blame the lack of parking space for the fact that what they are offering the public is no longer working.

“We are very exposed in the modern economy but you have to accept that if you don’t refresh your offer then there will come a time when you lose customers. The council can’t help with that.”

Coun Harman pointed out that several traders did make positive suggestions about the future of the market, including the idea of performance spaces and longer trading hours.

Members of the committee agreed to continue discussions with the traders and to consider all ideas for the future of the markets.