Call for extraordinary council meeting over Colchester market traders’ fears

Colchester market stall owners Trevor Lankford, Gary Foy, Gavin Tyler, Jeanette Walter, Shahid Zaman

Colchester market stall owners Trevor Lankford, Gary Foy, Gavin Tyler, Jeanette Walter, Shahid Zaman and Cornish Kitchen's Karen Ryan are teaming up to fight Colchester Borough Council's plans to move them onto the High Street and are collecting names on petitions. - Credit: Su Anderson

Senior councillors have been accused of being “totally unreasonable” in their efforts to move market traders from their pitches two days a week.

Stallholders in Culver Street West, Colchester, say their livelihood is at risk if plans from Colchester Borough Council (CBC) to implement an exclusive High Street market two days a week went ahead.

CBC is looking to reinstate its Charter Market on the High Street on Fridays and Saturdays, but say the terms of the charter exclude any other market being held at the same time. The council has served notice on the Culver Street West traders saying they can no longer pitch their stalls on the two days, and invited them to take up a new stall – at a higher rent.

The traders say the higher costs, and impact the change of location will have on their customer base, will put them out of business.

Now six Conservative members of the authority have petitioned the mayor to hold an additional council meeting to debate the issue.

Conservative group leader Will Quince said: “They are relying on a 600-year-old charter in Latin which they have in effect ignored for the last 30 years.

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“I am hopeful an actual meeting can be avoided. This is a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and I will gladly withdraw our request if an acceptable compromise is reached.

“We fully support the move to a High Street market, I think it makes a huge amount of sense, but there is a big difference between street licenced traders such as those in Culver Street West – who were told they will not be affected – and market traders.

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“The whole thing seems totally unreasonable and unnecessary.

“In this economic climate we should be supporting small businesses and people working hard to make a living.”

The Tories have invoked a rule under the Local Government Act requesting the mayor, as chairman, call a council meeting. If he does not, then the councillors can call a meeting in their own right.

The councillors plan to submit a motion of concern that the concerns of existing street traders have not been given “due weight” in formulating the market plans.

Mr Quince’s letter to the mayor also points out that the traders have a petition of more than 5,000 signatures, which would trigger a debate at full council.

No full council meeting is planned before the elections in May.

A CBC spokesman said the authority hoped to comment on the councillors’ request today once it had been looked at properly.

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