Stalham market stallholders call for more central venue
Traders in Stalham's dwindling outdoor market are calling for a new town-centre venue and more stallholders to help stop the rot.
The once-thriving Tuesday market has been struggling since the arrival of Tesco in Stalham nine years ago.
Now there are just five stalls left, based on the old station yard site, at the opposite end of High Street to the supermarket giant.
The remaining stallholders believe their out-of-the way location is the main problem and would like to see High Street closed off - in similar fashion to North Walsham - once a week for stalls, to entice back lost trade.
Walsham holds a traditional street market every Thursday when Market Place is closed to traffic.
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Local town and county council leaders say they would listen sympathetically if the Stalham market traders want to come and discuss their ideas.
Cromer market, which, like Stalham, is managed by North Norfolk District Council, saw a partial revival in its fortunes earlier this year after a steep drop in its stall numbers.
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Tea stallholder Kevin Knowles said he had been coming to Stalham market for nearly 30 years and had watched its gradual decline ever since it had moved off its old sale ground site to make way for Tesco.
'Without any doubt - 100pc - Tesco killed the market,' said Mr Knowles. 'There's nowhere central enough anywhere else in Stalham to put it where people would come, but closing off the High Street has worked elsewhere.'
Steve Staddon, who runs a pet supplies stall, said 10 years ago Stalham was 'heaving' on market day, with over 100 stalls and an auction.
He said he was also a regular at markets in Bradenham, Wymondham, Swaffham, Fakenham and Norwich, and Stalham was the quietest of them all.
'We would like to get more stallholders. We had some last year but they were the wrong sort - crafts. What we need is a butcher and a fishmonger - the sort of things people buy every day,' Mr Staddon added.
Tim Boggis, who runs a plant stall, said: 'Whenever a big supermarket arrives, it becomes the focus of a town. People park up at Tesco, shop there and don't make their way down here.'
Barry Mobbs, Stalham Town Council chairman, said the idea of shutting High Street had never been suggested before but if traders wanted to discuss it informally they would be welcome.
Nigel Dixon, county councillor for Stalham, said a feasibility study would have to be undertaken by the highways department if a firm proposal was brought forward from a body like the town council.
In February Cromer's Friday market, on the Meadow car park, had shrunk to just two stallholders but numbers rose over the summer and it now boasts between 10 and 12, according to an NNDC spokesman.
Meanwhile Sheringham, another NNDC-managed market, has a healthy 37 stalls on the station car park each Saturday and it will be open on Christmas Eve.
? For more information about Stalham market ring 01263 516007. Father Christmas will be there from 10.30am-11.30am on December 20.