‘Never has it been as bad as this’ - Market traders in Yarmouth fear for their livelihoods
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A row has erupted over the rent paid by stallholders on Great Yarmouth market, which traders say is threatening their livelihoods.
It started in November, when Great Yarmouth Borough Council's Economic Development Committee voted to lower fees by 2.5pc for 2017/18.
This was option three of four proposed, and was recommended route by council officers.
But traders said while this seemed positive, re-measuring of stalls and enforcement of paying for space previously given for free would actually mean they were out of pocket.
Jeff Platten has run the market's Pet Stall for 43 years. He said: 'There have been good times and there have been bad times, but never has it been as bad as this.'
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Along with other traders, he formed the Two Day Market Traders Group - representing Wednesday and Saturday traders - who said when the market had been under performing, councillors had encouraged traders to spread out into empty space.
But Alan Pitt, who has sold handbags for 29 years, said: 'Now after considerable years they want to charge us for this space, which will make the market unviable for nearly all the traders.'
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The group also said new structures would mean a stall costing more per square foot than some town centre shops, such as the former Junx store.
Steve Leaver - who runs the phone stall - said this was half the price of a standard market stall of the same size.
A fifth option put forward by the traders was rejected by the council, but they have now received backing from the National Market Traders' Federation.
Mr Platten said the option they put forward would see space previously given for free now paid for. He added: 'This not only maintains council revenues but potentially increases them.'
He added market management had even agreed it was the best option.
'Option three will result in the spiralling decline of the market, when the unaffordable larger stalls are forced to leave, or at best become small stalls,' he said.
'If we were asking for something for nothing, the refusal would be understandable, we are not.'
Great Yarmouth Borough Council said traders were simply 'being asked to pay for the trading space they actually occupy.'
They said the fees for the traders were based on per foot calculations, so it was fair to everyone on the market.
Council leader Graham Plant said: 'As part of the wider Town Centre Initiative the borough council has made significant efforts over the last two years to improve the management and environment of the market.
'Looking ahead, the council is working closely with traders to promote the Market Place as the heart of our town centre.
'With regards to fees, the council has a clear policy that applies equally to all traders. While the council is happy to answer any questions or concerns about the policy, it is only fair to everyone on the market that all traders pay for all the space they occupy and therefore everyone trades on the same basis.'