POLL: Holt traders’ fury over Friday market plan

Angry traders are demanding the scrapping of a summer-long Friday market that they claim will 'devastate' shops in Holt.

Shopkeepers on and around Bull Street and Fish Hill fear the combination of lost car parking spaces and added competition from market stall holders will heap pressure on them as they battle through the recession.

More than 350 petition signatures have been gathered in a last-ditch bid to head off the trial scheme, which will run at Fish Hill every Friday from July 6 until the end of August.

But, despite shop owners lobbying Monday's Holt Town Council to make their views known, members decided to press on.

And council clerk Di Dann expressed surprised at the timing of the furore, saying that from last autumn the businesses could have put their views forward about the proposal, which is part of a �30,000 vision for Holt's future.

The traders' fears are focused on eight parking spaces on Fish Hill, which would be lost during each Friday market.

Paul Reed, from P and S Butchers on Bull Street, has started a petition, and said a survey last Friday had found that 83 different vehicles used the eight spaces in one day.

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He said: 'Holt is desperately in need of car parking spaces, so why take these away?'

He added: 'Bringing in market stalls will mean even more competition for shops that are already struggling. The town council is not supporting us. They shot us down in flames at the meeting and said it's going ahead regardless, which is insensitive.'

Penny Lukins, who owns Peccadillos Gifts and Interiors on Bull Street and Tumbleweed Gift Shop in Aylsham, said: 'There's been no proper consultation process with existing retailers.

'Trading has been extremely difficult. The town council should be supporting us, not putting additional competition into the town.'

Mrs Lukins added that traders would be less concerned if the market provided something that was not already available in Holt, like a 'French market'.

But she said: 'All this will do is replicate the products and spread a small customer base even more thinly. It could be devastating for existing trade.

'We don't need a market in the town. It's a totally senseless plan with disregard for the traders.'

David Makinson, from Holt Bookshop in Appleyard, said he had 'total solidarity' with his fellow shopkeepers.

He said: 'The stalls are going to be selling exactly the same produce that's readily available in the town. You will have a butcher who will have a market butcher selling exactly the same things a few feet from his shop frontage.'

Mrs Dann said public question time had been extended on Monday to give traders a chance to have their say, but the council had opted to press on with the plan.

She stressed that it was a 'trial', and added: 'Everybody is welcome to give their views. We have been consulting on the market as part of the vision plan since autumn.'

She said the idea of the market was to attract new people to that part of the town. And she said that the council was providing 50 temporary parking spaces at Gresham's Pre-prep School car park during market times.

Holt Vision, which was funded by �25,000 from North Norfolk Community Partnership and �5,000 from the town council, is a 25-year masterplan.

Its most ambitious aspect is creating three new town squares in Market Place, Fish Hill and Shirehall Plain by pedestrianising areas.

? Do you support or oppose the Friday market? Visit www.northnorfolknews.co.uk to vote in our poll or write to the Letters Editor, North Norfolk News, 31, Church Street, Cromer, NR27 9ES.