Bradford Council has recently announced that it’s to buy the former Marks and Spencer’s store on Darley Street at the Top of Town, and will move the market from the Oastler Centre into this new home.
Reactions have been largely positive, with a few key concerns around the change. After all, the market has been in the Oastler Centre for a long time, and the former M&S building is smaller than the current indoor market, so this will be a rethink rather than a simple relocation.
Among the factors that have undoubtedly influenced this decision are the closure of the large Morrisons store attached to the Oastler Centre, the number of empty shops on Darley Street, the opening of the new Broadway shopping centre close to Darley Street, and the popularity of Darley Street during arts activities such as Creative Streets.
With this new development comes new opportunity, and – as indie business enthusiasts based in Bradford – we’re certainly hopeful about the future of the excellent market stallholders we’ve met on our travels.
The first thing to note is that the new market promises to be food-focused. Food is something Bradford does particularly well, especially in the markets.
With Roswitha’s deli, the Little Tea House, Solly’s fruit and veg, and high quality snack stalls selling noodles, cake and more, the Oastler Centre really excels when it comes to food, whether you’re looking for raw ingredients from all over the world, or the finished products to enjoy there and then.
Housing all of these stallholders into a specialised food area and promoting it as a foodie destination could give the new market a strong identity, bringing people in from outside Bradford to see what’s on offer.
Shoppers at Broadway who want to grab a bite to eat wouldn’t have far to go to try something fresh, independent and local, and could stock up on their groceries at the same time as picking up clothes in the shopping centre.
But what about the non-food stallholders and those on the outside of the market? This is the question on many people’s lips at the moment, and it’s a fair one.
This leads us to another potential opportunity, once the food stalls have been separated from the non-food stalls – the chance to repopulate the empty units on Darley Street. If the rents are right, the street is promoted as a whole, and the existing businesses are supported, we could potentially see Darley Street emerge as an independent shopping street.
Housing is planned for the current site of the Oastler Centre, bringing more residents into the area to support the businesses around the Top of Town. The ideal scenario would be new regular customers for all the independent shops, the bars along North Parade, and the food market.
No change so huge is ever going to run 100% smoothly and meet with universal approval, and traders need to be confident they’ll feel the benefits of any move. But from where we’re standing as Bradford indie business fans, we’re optimistic that a new and renowned independent shopping and eating area could emerge from the change, joining some of the UK’s best indie districts.