‘Stalham market will be dead by Christmas’, traders warn

Traders have delivered a stark warning that Stalham's market will be dead by Christmas without urgent efforts to breathe life into it.

Ten years ago the Tuesday market was thriving with more than 100 stalls but since the arrival of Stalham's Tesco store in 2002 the story has been one of steady decline to the position where there are just three stalls left.

The remaining stallholders have written to North Norfolk District Council urging it to introduce concessionary rents for casual traders to try to encourage them back.

They also want improved signage advertising the market and consideration given to a better location, possibly closing a section of the High Street to hold it there instead of the present car park at the top end of High Street.

They are being supported in their fight by MP Norman Lamb who has called for an urgent meeting between the traders and district and town council officials to look at options.

Christine Boggis, who runs a plant stall with her husband Tim, said: 'Casual traders are now being asked to pay �30 a day and that is far too high for Stalham. The council is treating us the same as Sheringham which has a thriving market and is a totally different kettle of fish.'

She said until the early part of this year there had been an extra two stalls, selling fruit and veg and watches and batteries, but those traders had quit as a result of the latest rent rise.

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Mrs Boggis said: 'The message from our loyal customers is that Stalham still wants a market but it is currently dying on its feet.'

Steve Staddon, who has run his pet food store for 13 years, said the market's displacement by the Tesco store had been the start of its troubles.

He said: 'We wanted to close part of the High Street and hold it there but that idea has never got anywhere.'

Kevin Knowles, who has run his burger stall for 30 years, said: 'Stalham on a Tuesday used to be buzzing, you could not walk down the High Street, but nowadays most people don't get further than Tesco car park.'

He said a thriving market would draw holidaymakers and people from a wide area to boost the town's economy.

Mr Lamb said: 'I very much understand the stallholders' sense of complete frustration. I think back to visits to Stalham in the good old days when there was a really thriving market.

'I think the district council needs to get together with traders and the town council, and I would be very happy to attend myself. We need to discuss options rather than just see it die through neglect and excessive charges.' .

However, North Norfolk council leader Keith Johnson said: 'We make constant efforts to ensure markets across the district are healthy.

'As part of that process we have regular dialogue with traders, including the Stalham traders. In the case of Stalham, other sites have been looked at and we have been unable to identify any suitable alternatives, although further suggestions would be welcome.'

He said the charging system had been carefully designed to support long-term traders and discourage those not prepared to commit to the market for any length of time, but the system at Stalham would undergo a review in the autumn to see if they could improve take-up of sites.

He said: 'A concerted effort is needed from all involved parties to find a way forward and we will endeavour to be part of that effort.'

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