King’s Lynn stallholders hit out at claim they are a “disgrace”

Stallholders in King's Lynn's busiest shopping centre have hit back at claims that their presence is detrimental to the town.

The Norfolk Farm Shop stall, run by Lee Shannon, and the nearby flower stall, run by Carl Ashton, in the Vancouver Quarter were criticised at a meeting which was prompted by the Mary Portas report into the state of UK high streets.

The Let's Talk Shop meeting on Tuesday night was initiated by West Norfolk Council and designed for the authority and businesses to share ideas but traders spent most of the meeting asking questions about the privately-owned shopping centre.

Linda Howe, managing director of Pastimes in Tower Street, labelled the two stalls a 'disgrace' with workers on the fruit and vegetable stall 'hollering all day long and degrading the town'.

Bernadette Chappell, from Deck of Cards, added: 'They look a mess in the street and block off shops. It's time we had markets and stalls where they belong.'

Reacting to their comments, Mr Shannon said: 'We bring a lot of trade into this town – more than many of the other traders. It's bad for the other traders to complain. We've got regular business now which we have really had to work hard to build up and we are selling top quality produce. A lot of the public love the pitching we do and I think it brings a bit of character back to this part of the town.'

Mr Ashton added: 'People come back here year after year to get their flowers from me and if I can't help them, I send them to other florists in the town – how is that a bad thing?

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'I am bringing in a lot of trade to the town which can only be seen as a good thing for the Vancouver Quarter and the town as a whole.'

More than 50 independent and chain retailers attended the meeting at the Duke's Head Hotel on the Tuesday Market Place.

The Vancouver Quarter was also criticised at the meeting with traders claiming the shopping centre was 'not interested' in the town.

Graham Walker, who runs Walker's News, said: 'The Vancouver Quarter needs profit but I would ask them to work with all traders in town.'

In response Paul Clifford, Vancouver Quarter centre manager, said: 'We invest many thousands of pounds in attracting customers to King's Lynn.

'If there are local businesses who want to find a way to work with us and the town as a whole for the development of the town we will be immediately engaged.

'We need to work together as a town, not look for who we can put out of business to support another.

'We need a plan to work on our strengths and capitalise on their weaknesses.'

There were also calls at the meeting for cheaper car parking on the Tuesday Market Place between 3pm and 6pm and free parking for an hour to attract people to that part of town.

Amanda Arterton, who runs furniture store Arterton's, called for the town centre partnership and the borough council to do 'something radical' to make Lynn more appealing.

She asked: 'Can we not tie up with First Capital Connect to promote Lynn as a heritage centre and put us on every train that goes to and from Kings Cross and Lynn?'