Trader says town council’s forced market closure is ‘soul destroying’
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:52 29 June 2020
A trader has said the forced closure of a market over protest claims has been “soul destroying.”
Downham Market Town Council shut its market last week as a result of reports of a planned demonstration taking place against their safety measures on Friday.
But traders said they were not aware of any protest and have expressed their disappointment in the council’s dealing of the situation.
Michael Howard, who runs Rain Wizard Catering and trades in the town on Saturdays, said traders were not properly informed about the closure, claiming there is an ongoing lack of communication from the council.
He said: “We can’t do anything about it. It just seems they do what they want.
“I haven’t had a phone call at all. I got an email yesterday morning with a letter from Jo (the new market strategy chairman).
“None of us knew about a protest and there was no talk of a riot.
“It’s ridiculous really, they seem to have gone overboard.
“At the end of the day this is how we all earn our living, so why would we jeopardise that?”
He said a petition and talk of a protest came from a borough councillor who made the comment on social media.
Mr Howard added: “We’ve been dictated to - ‘you can’t have this, you can’t have that’ - it feels like we’ve been put in detention.
“Every person we’ve spoken to are adamant they (council) do not want the market there, they want rid of it.”
Nina Narramore, owner of The Norfolk Cheese Company, has traded at Downham’s market every Friday for the last two years.
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She said: “The whole situation has got ridiculous.
“There is obvious friction between traders and the council for various reasons but as far as I’m aware nobody has organised a protest.
“This is something that was mentioned within a thread on social media and has been blown out of all proportion.
“If the council has communicated with the traders rather than just making the decision to close the market, I’m sure it could have been resolved.
“It’s such a shame all we want it to get back into the market and see our customers, following the government’s guidelines, just as most markets are successfully doing up and down the country. Why are we so different in Downham?
The council said it has contacted traders and is doing its best to comply with government regulations to “keep the community safe.”
Elaine Oliver, town clerk, said: “We have a lot of rumours and a lot of talk about it (protest), one of the traders said they would be doing it.
“We took legal advice on that and spoke to the police and the advice was we should not have the market because we did not know what that was going to turn into and covid is still around.
“We’re not against demonstrations, it was because of how it would come out for the market and how it could be controlled and we did not feel we could.
“We’ve got letters to send out to people who we haven’t got email addresses for, we have tried to speak to everyone this week if we have their details and will continue to do that.
“We will be getting a Zoom meeting together for traders and inform them of the time and details on Monday.
“At the end of the day, it’s our responsibility and our property to keep the community safe.”
She addressed closure claims, saying the council has been working on making the market “bigger and better” and was not trying to shut it down.
Mrs Oliver added: “We’re looking forward to getting more stalls and getting back to the new normal.”
Mr Howard, also a chef manager at a primary school in Cambridge, said: “People are now saying well ‘sod it, we’ll go find a new market,’ which is fair enough.”
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