After two years of negotiations, the City of Fremantle is preparing to make a final decision on the lease of the Fremantle Markets, which has been held by the same family for 32 years.
The current lease, held by John and Jamie Murdoch of Fremantle Markets Pty Ltd, is due to expire in 2010, and the leaseholders have proposed a new 21-year agreement as part of a business plan for the markets.
The proposed lease includes a profit sharing arrangement with the city and a starting annual rental above market valuation, as well as a clause that allows council to influence the strategic direction of the markets.
The city is currently taking public submissions on the business plan and a vote will be taken early next year.
Last week, the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce Inc issued a letter encouraging its members to respond to the proposal.
The chamber’s chief executive, John Longley, said the majority of the markets’ 150 stallholders wanted security of tenure.
“What concerns us is the fact that if the lease doesn’t go ahead, we will enter a period of a real lack of stability,” Mr Longley said.
“It would be bad for Fremantle and the wider tourism industry if this happens.”
Mr Longley said there were limited options in terms of alternative management if the lease was not renewed.
“The National Trust has been dancing around the issue and has sent a number of letters to the effect that it’s not interested in running the markets – it’s the building, not the markets, they’re interested in,” he said.
“The city [of Fremantle] may have to try and run it but I don’t think any local government would be any good at doing that.”
“It’s far too premature to say what may or may not happen while we are in this public consultation phase and it’s not for me or anyone else to pre-empt any council decision that may occur,” he said.