Security brought in to keep the peace at town council meeting
- Credit: George Thompson
Crowds of market traders and their supporters jeered and cheered at the windows of Downham Market Town Council’s meeting, as division in the town continued.
A row between some market traders and Downham Market Town Council has continued for more than 18 months, and came to a head at a full council meeting in September, resulting in the police being called.
Traders, angry over the council's management of the town's market post-lockdown, say the market has been "devastated over the past two years". Accusations the council has rejected.
On Tuesday, a crowd of more than 30 assembled outside the Jubilee Community Centre where the meeting was held.
Security guards had been brought in, with the mayor, Jenny Groom, saying that “members have felt threatened”.
The mayor insisted that keeping the public outside was due to Covid security measures and “not done to be dictatorial”.
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The meeting opened with several questions focusing on the market traders.
One member of the public said: “Given the dire present situation, how much leeway is the council willing to give the stallholders, as the lifeblood of the town is at stake?
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“More consideration must surely be given? If the council do not enter into discussions they will be seen as typical jobsworths.”
The mayor said the council would be answering all questions in a written response on their website.
The mediation was welcomed by the mayor, Ms Groom said: “It does look like we will be able to get subsequent mediation in place. It is clear that we need to have a free and frank conversation moving forward.
“I will, with the deputy mayor, be looking at a date to get that in place.”
The deputy mayor, Jackie Westrop, raised concerns about future meetings and said parents feared for their children’s safety at Hallowe’en events due to the “animosity” in the town.
This was dismissed by councillors, including Stephen Moyses, who said the public had more sense than to disrupt events.
Speaking to people outside, a couple who did not wish to give their names said they did not believe the mediation would fix the issue, calling it the tip of the iceberg.