Lack of co-operation from the Douglas Development Partnership has been blamed for the Isle of Man Farmers’ Markets (IoMFM) not having a market in the capital.
Chairman of the IoMFM, Sheila Gawne, revealed that it had tried very hard to open a market in the town, but was thwarted by the partnership as it wanted the farmers to commit to a market before it knew the full extent of the costs involved.
Peter Birch, from the Original Fudge Factory in Ballasalla, recently wrote to the island’s authorities asking for their support in opposing the European continental markets, which he claimed were doing a ‘great harm’ to retailers outside Douglas.
He said the island’s farmers’ market asked to hold a monthly market in the same area as the continental market in Douglas, but had been refused on the grounds of health and safety due to access for emergency vehicles, said Mr Birch. He asked why the continental markets were allowed to be held in the same location.
DDP’s Chris Pycroft responded that comments about the farmers’ market were untrue. ‘We were really keen to try and encourage local producers to put on a market in Douglas, but we could not get enough people [farmers],’ he said.
But Mrs Gawne said the IoMFM tried hard to open a market in town and held a series of meetings with the then Douglas town manager Gill Anderson between July and November 2011.
‘We were looking to see what the opportunities were of ourselves operating our monthly market in the same vicinity as a market planned by the DDP,’ she said. ‘The results from these meetings ended up being rather disappointing.
‘The upshot of these meetings was that due to lack of confirmation from the town centre manager regarding any subsidies we, due to our limited financial resources, could not progress with this matter without putting our members at financial risk.’
She said: ‘We are individual traders, we have to be very, very careful, the only revenue is from pitch fees from stall holders, we did not want the farmers’ market to fold, traders could say: “Forget it, we are just not coming”.’
Mrs Gawne added: ‘We had to commit to go down and do a market before they [the DPP] would tell us what costs we would incur, nothing was very forthcoming. If we had it at North Quay, we would have to tell them we wanted to do it before they would tell us the help they would give us.’
DDP suggested the market be held in Castle Street, but the IoMFM was concerned because of the lack of footfall there and also a stipulation that the stalls go in front of empty shops – so be spread out – rather than in one spot.
It also had concerns about restrictions on loading and unloading, the cost of licences, road closure and clean up.
She added: They [DPP] were not happy about the butcher having his usual hog roast as this would be conflicting with the other catering outlets in the town.
‘The IoMFM felt this was just another obstacle being put in our path. We could not have a hog roast, because it would upset other catering, but you look at how the continental markets are. At the end of the day, they had gas cylinders, hot food, the outlets were set up as we wanted it.’
However, there is potential to hold markets in the market hall in Douglas, she said, and the IoMFM has lodged an expression of interest about holding markets there. ‘It could be used for all sorts of things. With a little bit of imagination it can be a centre piece of Douglas.’
Tomorrow (Sunday) a harvest time farmers’ market will be held at the Southern 100 clubhouse car park, off Castletown bypass, from 1pm to 4pm.
There will be a wide variety of fresh vegetables, baked goods, bedding plants, locally produced meat, hot food, and the Southern Vintage Tractor Club will have a display of static machinery and tractors.
There will also be the opportunity to see the freshly harvested grain being rolled. Car parking and entry is free.