Town’s market reopening marred by ‘violent incident’
PUBLISHED: 11:28 18 June 2020 | UPDATED: 08:52 19 June 2020
A member of the public tried to throw social distance barriers and remove markers when a town’s market reopened, councillors said.
The “violent incident” was revealed during a Downham Market Town Council meeting, following accusations it was trying to close down the facility.
Members addressed the concerns during the virtual meeting on Tuesday, June 16.
The market reopened on Friday, June 5 under social distancing measures enforced by Phoenix Events (East) Ltd, but only two out of five traders turn up.
Some traders and the local community questioned the delayed reopening, reduced times and use of external security.
But the council said it stood by its decision, made to to maintain the “safety of the public of Downham Market” - and added it was trying to develop the market.
Becky Hayes, the town’s mayor, said the council was restricted as its insurance company has been “quite strict” in what they could and could not do in the market space.
She added: “Our market square is significantly smaller than some of the other markets in Wisbech or Swaffham or Fakenham and we have to comply to the current guidelines, which is the two-metre distancing.
“It has been very challenging to meet the recommendations laid down by our insurance company, laid down by our government and continue to meet the needs of the market and the people who wish to attend the market.”
Mrs Hayes said she was grateful security was used as there was a “violent incident” on the first day of the market reopening.
She said: “A member of the public was abusive and tried to throw some of the social distances barriers around and remove the markers, an incident which concluded in the police being called.
“So we’re very grateful we had the safety stewards there as members of the public were scared by that gentleman’s behaviour, and we have had repeated incidents of people sadly not following the social distancing guidelines.”
Jo Woodmin, who took over as chairman of the market committee on Tuesday, said the market would open on Friday, June 19 with five stalls and next week would be extended to Saturday, with an added hour.
She said she had to “hold her hands up” after filling the fifth market stall without committee consultation.
She said: “I was very aware that a big part of people’s concerns is the cost of the safety team and I know that five stalls just about covers the cost of the market, so that’s when I got the fifth one in.
“I did that on my own, I apologise and take responsibility for that.”
Mrs Hayes said: “The reason we have committees is that the decision doesn’t just lie with somebody. We are democratic and those decisions should be passed through the committee.
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But councillor Colin Bulley thanked the new chairman for “showing initiative” and filling the stalls.
Alan Pickering and Cissy Lightfoot both said they had been accused of shutting down or moving the market and Ben Molyneux-Hetherington asked the council to “reaffirm” their commitment to get the market running “back to normal, keeping it open and hopefully making it bigger and better”.
The market chairman said: “We did have plans before the Covid disaster hit us, so a lot of things are on hold but yes we’re all enthusing about growing the market and making it a massive draw for the town.”
Mr Pickering said: “I have never wanted to close the market. I want to see it expanded as a much bigger market and I would like to see Downham Market being known worldwide for its market, but let’s start with East Anglia.”
Mrs Hayes said the advice from the government was changing all the time and the council was doing its best to be “proactive”.
She said: “What’s the point of being called Downham Market if we don’t have a market?”
The five traders for Friday are KniCat Bakery, Rout’s of Wisbech, The Norfolk Cheese Company, a burger stall and a pasty and sausage roll stall.
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