MP offers support as row leaves councillors 'afraid to walk' in town

Liz Truss and Downham Market

Liz Truss has offered her support with mediation in a row between traders and town councillors in Downham Market. - Credit: UK Parliament/Chris Bishop

A row in Downham Market has left some councillors "afraid" to walk alone in the town, it has been claimed.

The disagreement 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 police being called. 

Traders are angry over the council's management of the town's market post-lockdown, describing what they call a "draconian rulebook". 

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council’s Conservative leader Stuart Dark last week said the authority would willingly provide “a significant investment in professional mediation” to resolve matters. 

And Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, has offered to help with the mediation.

Stuart Dark, West Norfolk council's cabinet member for emergency planning. Picture: Norfolk Conserva

Stuart Dark - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

The issue will be discussed at a borough council meeting on Thursday, at which Labour group leader Charles Joyce will propose a motion outlining the council’s concern that “some Downham town councillors and staff have publicly stated they are afraid to walk in Downham Market".

At this month’s Downham Market Town Council meeting, mayor Jenny Groom said councillors had been left feeling “very threatened”, resulting in the need for a security presence at that meeting.

Newly-appointed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss leaves Number 10 Downing Street, as Prime Minister Boris

Ms Truss said she welcomed the offer of support extended by Mr Dark and the borough council. - Credit: PA

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Deputy mayor Jackie Westrop said at the meeting it had “become apparent” that people “in pursuit of the market agenda” would be continuing to attend council events in order to “criticise councillors”.

The mayor of Downham Market, Jenny Groom. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Jenny Groom - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

She said she was uncertain about whether the town’s Halloween event could go ahead.

“Parents are concerned about the safety of bringing children into a volatile situation,” said Ms Westrop. 

Councillors agreed, however, that the event should go ahead.

Jackie Westrop

Deputy mayor Jackie Westrop - Credit: Downham Market Rotary

It has seen Ms Truss, who was appointed foreign secretary in September, raise concerns.

She said: “I am extremely keen to see a thriving market within the town and have called on all parties to seek a resolution.

“On Fridays and Saturdays, the market is a central feature in the town and certainly boosts foot traffic within Downham which is very much appreciated by other businesses.

“I have raised my concerns directly with Downham Market council and in order to restore confidence and ensure complete transparency, I have offered to support the council in moving forward with mediation via another council or external organisation.

“I therefore very much welcome the offer last week from the leader of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council Stuart Dark to assist Downham Market with mediation.”

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