A FREE bus route between Braintree town centre and Braintree Village shopping centre could be relaunched as part of plans to boost markets hammered by the pandemic.

It is among ten recommendations from Braintree Council that include starting a marketing campaign to recruit traders, and starting a regular periodic review to ensure continued improvements.

Market income to the council has fallen from a net surplus of £72,000 in 2013/2014 to a deficit of £19,000 in 2020/2021 and £16,000 in 2021/2022.

Even in 2019/2020, most of which was unaffected by Covid, the council only saw a net income of £1,000 from its markets.

The council has admitted it has concerns over the slump in market activity.

They were re-started in July 2021 but some of the past market traders have closed their businesses due to the impacts of the pandemic.

The council says it “is concerned that if the council is not proactive in reinvigorating the markets then the resource could be lost”.

The council committee which looked into markets has come up with a list of recommendations.

The council says it will defer a decision until after the local elections.

An historic agreement for a transport service between Braintree town centre and Braintree Village, previously known as Freeport Designer Village, had paused in 2019.

A recommendation has suggested that this is sought to be resolved at the earliest opportunity, particularly on market days, to benefit customers exploring both areas.

Councillor David Mann (Lab, Bocking) said: “When Freeport was established there was a whole raft of obligations that they had to give us as a factory outlet centre.

"This two-way, free transport service from the town centre and Freeport was a very important one of them – we didn’t want then to see Freeport in competition with the town centre but complementary to it.”

He added: “It was well used and has been a matter of debate in the town ever since it has gone. It is now very difficult to access Braintree shopping village by public transport.

“The economic growth strategy gives a tick to the shopping village as a very important employment centre. We need it to succeed and the restoration of the free service will help.”