THOUSANDS of pounds is being awarded to Cullompton for an ambitious project to launch a new market.
Several covered stalls, selling a wide range of produce are expected to line the Higher Bullring regularly by the end of the year in an attempt to increase footfall and boost the town centre's economic fortunes.
The Cullompton Regeneration Action Group (CRAG) has so far pledged £11,500 for the project. The money will be released on the provision of a sound business plan which is being completed by Cullompton Town Council.
Further funding of up to £20,000 could also be awarded by the High Street Innovation Fund – a cash pot held by the Government to help revive ailing High Streets.
Parish councillors, CRAG members and William Gillings, the manager of Cullompton's Farmers' Market, have been working behind the scenes on plans for a new market and visits have already been made to South Molton and Honiton, which boast in excess of 90 stalls between them, to learn the secrets of their success.
Traders' association members are said to be on board and there is hope support from other businesses will be won for the event, which is expected to complement and not compete with them.
The street market will bring together the existing farmers' and indoor markets.
Nina Ashley, town clerk, said: "Essentially, the town council has decided to go for the market on December 1, to coincide with the Christmas parade.
"Ultimately, it needs to be self-funded, which is why we are doing so much research – we do need initial funding for start-up costs.
"I think it is needed and it would be nice for the town to see a bit if investment and it will look good, so hopefully people will stop here.
"It is for regeneration and it will be good to get more people in the town.
"If we can attract more of those living in rural villages, it will be fantastic."
Jonathan Guscott, planning and regeneration manager at Mid Devon District Council, is controlling the purse strings and although he is willing to release the funding for an initial three gazebos and stalls to get things started, he has said he wants to see an in-depth plan before cash for the remaining five plots is released.
It is hoped that grants and market profits will eventually pay for a market manager.
Councillors Michael Spiers and Chaim Ebanks have been working on the business plan but are against a 'pilot market' of only three stalls because it would not provide the council with accurate information on how such an event is likely to succeed.
Cllr Spiers said: "A critical mass is needed for it to look like a market.
"We have a bigger population and they are supporting around 60 stalls at South Molton; it's huge. Honiton runs 28 to 30 stalls two days per week – these markets are successful, are making money and they pay for a full-time market manager.
"We need a baker, fruit and veg and a café; they are the three primary attractions that pull people in. If you look at the French market, people were queued around the block for the baker, so obviously there is a demand for good bread."
Cllr Chaim Ebanks said: "There are great similarities between Honiton and South Molton markets. They started under some pressure but by sticking with them and working hard and viewing them more as a pilot, they really have come on."
The council needs to apply for a share of the High Street Innovation Fund by tomorrow.