New agreement unveiled on the future of King’s Lynn’s Mart

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Fair operators and borough council officials have reached a deal over the future of Lynn’s historic Mart, a new report has revealed.

If approved, the agreement between West Norfolk Council and the Showman’s Guild of Great Britain will secure the future of the fair on the town’s Tuesday Market Place until at least 2020.

And the authority has warned that a lengthy legal battle may follow if the proposals are not given the go-ahead.

The future of the fair came under the spotlight after three-year-old Rio Bell was killed in a collision with a car in nearby King Street during the 2012 event.

And there had been deadlock between the council and the guild over the authority’s wish to reduce the number of days that the fair stood on the market square and moves to end the traditional Valentine’s Day opening.

But under the latest proposals, which were drawn up following a series of meetings between the council and the guild, the Mart will continue to open on or around February 14 until at least 2020.

Although the plan allows the fair to operate for 13 days in each of the next two years, it is now set to be gradually reduced to eight days’ duration by 2020.

But earlier opening times will be trialled during the school half-term period over the next two years.

That initiative will then be reviewed at the end of the 2016 event.

And the council said that negotiations for fairs beyond 2020 will be carried out on an annual basis from next year.

A report by council chief executive Ray Harding to the authority’s regeneration, environment and community panel – which will be the first council body to consider the proposals next week – said the council accepted that a February 14 opening was of “great importance” to the guild.

He added that the authority’s desire to free up the market square was accepted by the guild and there was a growing acceptance that earlier opening hours, which town centre retailers had called for, should be looked at.

Mr Harding, who has 
recommended that the plan is approved, said: “This is the best agreement that can be achieved by negotiation.

“Both parties have made concessions from their 
opening position.”

The document suggests that if members rejected the new plan that the council could apply to the Government for permission to adopt its original proposal to cut the length of the fair to eight days.

This would have the effect of forcing it to open on the Friday ahead of the February half-term.

But Mr Harding warned: “This approach will be strongly resisted by the Showmen’s Guild and is likely to be a protracted and costly process with no ultimate guarantee of a successful outcome.

“Whilst this proposed agreement does not achieve, in full, the council’s desired outcome, it does represent an improvement on the current arrangements.”

The regeneration panel will debate the proposals at a meeting next Wednesday, May 28.

They are then expected to go before the council’s ruling cabinet next month.