Market designer's vision to create more open space
Archant Norfolk 2016
He's the man behind the market's dramatic makeover in 2006..
And now, 10 years on, architect Michael Innes has hit out at council chiefs who this year released a 10-year plan to overhaul the landmark shopping destination, as he said they should be looking at a timeframe of 20 years to really make a difference.
As part of the Evening News’ Get Behind Your Market Campaign, he told us of his vision for the future of the market, through the eyes of a man better placed than most to know how it can succeed.
Directed management, improved maintenance, and a reduction in the number of stalls are all ideas put forward in a draft initiative Mr Innes put together in July – which he sent to Norwich City Council but Mr Innes said was never acted on.
“The most recent document came about because I realised there was a bit of rumbling in the air at that time. Nobody was cleaning the top and I got fed up of this, so I rang the leader of the council,” said Mr Innes, 85. He added he had mentioned this at the time of the redesign too.
“I shop in the market and I’m not going to just sit back any longer. It was meant to shame them a bit, because I don’t think the way they’ve been managing it is very good.”
Mr Innes was an unlikely pick to redesign the market, but not due to his lack of skills.
When the idea was first mooted a competition was launched and ideas submitted for the new look. But none struck a cord with readers of this paper, or traders, and the letters pages were filled with objections.
Mr Innes, of Thorpe St Andrew, added his voice to the furore, with his experience of building shopping centres around the world.
And he was picked to recreate the historical market.
“I got the brief in a very weird way, as I had been writing letters to the paper. I was retired by then so I wrote agreeing that it was high time someone did something about it.”
Now, he said the best thing for the market would be to create open areas where people could congregate, or make a walkway so people would pass through as a shortcut.
A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “We appreciate Mr Innes’ interest and enthusiasm for Norwich Market.
“There has been a meeting between the leader of Norwich City Council, Alan Waters, and Mr Innes to discuss his proposals for the market and its future.
“Many of Mr Innes’ suggestions are already being acted on as part of our 10-year strategy and others are factored into future plans.”
The maintenance of the market is something which disappointed Mr Innes, as in his report he points to the cleaning and canopies as things holding the market back.
“The canopies are a disappointment. Have they ever been seriously tried?” he said.
The perspex canopies were a key part of the futuristic redesign, and were supposed to make the market more airy while being able to be lowered when it rained.
However, they have never been opened.
“No real attempt seems to have been made over the years that have gone by since their installation with rain, wind and sun sensors. Does it have to be admitted that they were
a promising idea but not a good one?”
He added that not only are they never opened, but he said they were never washed either.
“The result is depressing - almost sordid in place.”
He also said the colourful striped roofs, although self-cleaning, could do with a yearly hose down.
With the maintenance issues raised by Mr Innes, he said this all raised a wider question of management.
“How creative has it been? Is it at the level that cares about mainly sweeping pavings and rubbish collection?”
“The visual evidence is of a serious back-log of items for periodic attention.
“More fundamentally, perhaps the evidence shows little initiative has gone beyond the day to day housekeeping, for exploiting the new opportunities that were introduced with the revamp?” He said the restoration of the memorial gardens in 2011 had put an end to temporary stalls along the back of the market.
He said: “Prior to 2003, at least on market days and weekends, this was a place for smaller ‘fit-up’ temporary small stalls.
“Now it is wholly one-sided and weaker for it.”
He also pointed to finding what you want as an issue, with their being a single directory on Gentlemen’s Walk.
He added, on the occupancy of stalls: “Closed stalls are killers, and stall holders are varyingly aware of what is good, it is a management function to have an eye for this.”
He said when a stall was empty, it should be decorated with graphics or hung displays. And that there should be an agreement about core trading times, so some stalls are not closed.
To hear from the market managers, tune into This Week, on Mustard TV, today from 7.30pm on Freeview channel 7.
Michael Innes said whatever else is done about maintenance or management, a reduction in the number of stalls in the market to around 180 would be the best option.
“The introduction of some internal space has a consider-able potential to enhance the shopping experience for users and traders,” he said. “A reduction in number might actually consolidate a ‘take’ of very similar gross rental value and make for a more secure future.”
In 2003, it was decided that after the revamp, every stall which existed before that year would be reinstated. But Mr Innes said if his ideas for some space to be opened up inside the market were adopted, it would create areas people could sit and eat or perch – without blocking the aisles.
This would mean around 20 stalls were lost, but when Mr Innes put this proposal forward in 2004 it was rejected as the market was fully let.
Other ideas were to create pathways through the market, so people could better get from Millennium Plain to Gentleman’s Walk.