Joy as licences returned to market traders at council meeting

Downham Market Town Council on 26 October 2021

The council agreed to return the licences at a full council meeting on Tuesday evening. - Credit: Downham Market Town Council

Loud cheers were heard through the windows of a Norfolk community centre as a troubled town council agreed to return the licenses of two market traders.

For several months, Downham Market Town Council has been engaged in a row with a group of market traders and residents, who believe the council has ruined the town’s market.

The ongoing argument has spilled over into chaotic scenes at recent council meetings - with police even being called to one in September

Following that meeting, two market traders had their licences revoked, with the council releasing a statement to say it had “no option” but to do so, because the traders had “significantly breached” the licence terms.

At a full council meeting on Tuesday however, the council heard the result of an appeal panel which had discussed the revocations. 

Deputy mayor Jackie Westrop said: “The appeal was solely based on the events that occurred at the full council meeting in September.

Jackie Westrop

Deputy mayor Jackie Westrop read out the result of the independent panel's ruling - Credit: Downham Market Rotary

“At this meeting, behaviour of people employed on the market stalls was unacceptable. 

“However, it was not the licence holders’ behaviour that was abusive.

“The appeal process showed that the clerk discharged her function properly and dispassionately against extraordinary provocation by using her administrative powers appropriately.

“She put an independent appeal board together and despite criticism, that appeal board fulfilled its remit. 

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“However, it is clear that the behaviour of the town council was unacceptable and questionable. 

“As a town council, we should not accept any abusive behaviour or bullying from councillors or members of the public.

“This is clearly laid out in various legislation and the council itself has been warned on several occasions about its standard of behaviour towards its own staff. 

“The panel on this occasion concluded, because the abusive behaviour occurred at a council meeting and not on a market stall, the only conclusion it could come to was to uphold the appeal.”

A majority of councillors voted to approve the ruling, with two abstaining and none voting against.

The two traders were invited to inform the clerk of which day they wished to recommence trade, causing an eruption of cheers from people standing outside.

The council said it had not allowed people inside because of social distancing.

A working group was also established at the meeting to look into what professional mediation may be needed to help resolve the wider feud.

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