Great Yarmouth Market shrinks by half in a year as traders leave in droves
- Credit: Archant
Traders have hit out at what they say are high rents on Great Yarmouth's two day market, which they say are pushing them out.
By the end of the year, the market will be half the size it was last year, because so many stalls have gone.
Traders have chosen to remain anonymous speaking to this newspaper, as they fear they could lose their licences if they speak out publicly.
The declining fortunes for the market has been years in the making, but a change of policy by Great Yarmouth Borough Council last November has according to traders, accelerated its downturn.
The new policy saw rents on the two day market fall by 2.5pc.
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On the face of it, the lower fees seemed positive. However, under the new proposals, stallholders are now charged for all the space they occupy, which has left them out of pocket.
Over the years, as stalls left the market, traders were encouraged to take up more space, to improve the look of the market.
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Now, being charged for the full space has hit their bottom lines.
One trader, who has handed in his notice to leave, said this added up to a 30pc increase in rent, which made trading there untenable.
He said: 'Times were hard in the 1970s recession, but things have never been as bad as they are now.'
Another said the market had gone from one of the biggest in the country, to a 'joke.'
One despondent stallholder said it felt like the council did not want the market there any more.
Another added: 'Without the market there is just a big desolate space in the middle of town full of seagulls.'
Council leader, Graham Plant, said improving the market was one of the council's priorities.
He added: 'Looking ahead, one of the key projects the council is progressing under the Town Centre Masterplan is the improvement of the market and Market Place, with a vision for greatly improved markets supported by new stalls and service facilities. This will support investment and footfall in the Market Place and wider town centre.
'With regards to fees, the council has not increased the two-day market fees since 2012 and actually reduced the fees by 2.5 per cent for 2017/18. The fees are in line with comparable town centre markets and apply equally to all traders.'
For hundreds of years Great Yarmouth's market has been the beating heart of the town.
Yarmouth has been a market town since the early 11th century.
The historical market place which covers an area of approximately 5,400 metres in middle of the town centre is thought to have existed prior to the granting of the King John Charter in 1208.
The Middle English wording of the charter translates roughly to: 'That the same borough should be free borough for ever and should have soc and sac, toll and team, and infangentheof and outfangentheof.'
It is the grant of toll that is relevant here; toll is defined in Whishaw's Law dictionary as a 'payment in towns, markets and fairs for goods and cattle bought and sold.'
Market Days take place in Great Yarmouth on Wednesday and Saturdays throughout the year plus Fridays from Whitsun to the end of October and there is also a six day covered market.
A shrinking market
In its heyday it was one of the biggest markets in the country.
Great Yarmouth's thriving market used to stretch all the way to the end of the cobbled car park.
The busiest days for the town was always a Wednesday or Saturday for Market Day.
Even just 15 years ago there were over 100 stalls on the Wednesday and Saturday markets.
However, this Wednesday there were just 18 stalls at the heart of the summer season, in the run up to the bank holiday weekend.
That is five fewer than at Easter, and now another five traders have said they are going to only trade only once a week.
This means by the end of the year, the two day market will be half the size it was a year ago, and ten times smaller than just over a decade ago.
Traders said no new business that has set up in the two day market in the past two years, has lasted more than six weeks.