Market traders 'devastated' over council plans to revoke licences
- Credit: Archant
Market traders in Downham Market have spoken of their "devastation" after finding out their licences will be revoked.
Downham Market Town Council released a statement on Friday, September 17 saying it had "no option" but to revoke two licences after licensees "significantly breached" their terms.
But market traders Stephen Moyses and Tony Leach, who are understood to be the two affected by the decision, said they had not yet received formal notice and had first heard about it when someone visited them on Friday.
It comes after an 18-month dispute over the management of the market between traders and the council came to a head at a full council meeting on Tuesday, September 7, which resulted in the police being called.
Mr Leach, whose sister Belinda is the official market licence holder for their stall, said the reasons for the breach are not yet known, but that following the news other traders planned to quit the market.
He said: "I've been here for 32 years, to be honest with you it feels like a big chunk of our lives has just been thrown away.
"We're going to struggle, but we're going to have to find other markets to go to.
"There must have been 50 or 60 people this morning, who cannot believe what is going on in this town."
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Mr Moyses, who runs a fruit and vegetable stall with his wife Betty, said the news was "absolutely devastating".
Mrs Moyses said: "My husband's father came out of the paratroopers and started on the market, he done 28 years and then he handed it over to my husband who's done 32."
Mr Moyses added: "I'm absolutely gutted, I felt sick yesterday. This is not a hobby, this is our livelihood, what pays our mortgage and our bills."
In the statement, mayor Jenny Groom said: "Traders joining the market sign a licence which contains a very clear code of conduct. Two licensees have consistently, over a period of time, significantly breached the terms of this licence."
The statement said the council had taken advice from the National Association of British Market Authorities and from its solicitor.
"Formal notice will be given to the traders concerned. Any other licensee who continues to break terms of the licence will likewise have their licence terminated," it says.
"The town council supports a strong vibrant market at the heart of our town and will work closely with the other market traders to ensure a successful future."
The council has been contacted for further comment.
Market myths and facts
On Thursday, September 16 the town council published a 'market myths and facts' page on its website.
It includes comments on the market, the new licences and the rent.
One accusation it addresses is "the council is killing the market", to which it said: "We now have a greater variety of stalls than we ever had. In total we now have 23 traders on the books compared to 20 in 2019."
Another is: "The council have been offered £250,000 for the car park to build on it that’s why they want to get rid of the market."
Its response says it has "no plans to sell any land" and says it has "not been approached to do so".