Rents cut lifeline for Stalham market
Traders have been offered a rents cut lifeline to address Stalham market's alarming slide.
The Tuesday market has seen the number of traders fall from more than 100 to just three since the arrival of Tesco in the town in 2002.
Stallholders issued a stark warning in the EDP two weeks ago that the market would be dead by Christmas without urgent action to breathe life into it.
North Norfolk District Council has now responded by announcing a reduction in weekly rent for casual traders from �30 to �10 throughout September.
Council leader Keith Johnson said: 'We value all our markets which are part and parcel of the community and Stalham market has a long history going back many years.
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'There has been a trend of markets struggling to compete for some time and Stalham has suffered more than most. That is why we took the decision last week to reduce rents.'
He said they had promoted the rents cut at other local markets and a number of traders had already pledged to start supporting Stalham.
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'I just hope we can sustain it in the long term and we will engage with stallholders, the chamber of trade and the town council to discuss what is best for the future,' he said.
He said they would consider all options, including the traders' preference to move the market from its present car park to the high street.
Christine Boggis, who runs a plant stall with her husband Tim, said: 'This is a good step forward. We just hope it will get the market up and running. Hopefully the public will respond.'
She said she hoped new traders would stay on in October when rents fell to a winter rate.
'If they sign up for the winter and agree to pay by direct debit, that will work out at even less than �10 a week,' she said.
Mrs Boggis said she would still be pressing the council for better signage, directing shoppers from other parts of the town.
Local county councillor Paul Rice, who has supported the traders' campaign, said: 'It's brilliant the council has moved so rapidly on this. Having been a trader at Stalham market myself I know how tough it is.'
MP Norman Lamb has offered to join talks on securing the market's long-term future.