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Existing market rules deemed 'unfit for purpose' by Downham councillors

Councillors have agreed to revoke existing byelaws and licenses which have been deemed unfair to town market traders .

Downham Town Council mayor Rebecca Hayes told a council meeting this week that the byelaws inherited from previous administrations were “not fit for purpose, unfair and outdated”.

The council has been taking on board public comments during a period of consultation, as well as monitoring other markets within the county.

The market in Downham
The market in Downham

Among the regulations which were highlighted as being unfair were traders having their licence revoked if they missed four consecutive markets and traders then not being allowed to trade for a period of five years once their licence has been revoked.

Mrs Hayes said many of the traders felt the opening hours of 8am to 5pm in the summer and 8am to 4pm in the winter were too long.

Another by-law deemed unreasonable is that traders can be faced with a summary conviction of £500 if they breach any condition imposed. Mrs Hayes also referred to a licence being terminated if any existing byelaws are breached.

The mayor said: “We want to encourage new traders and the plan was always to extend the market to make it much bigger and better.

“New traders with new commodities and varieties of the same thing allow people to have a choice and a reason to come to Downham.”

Solicitor Paul Sheerin told the meeting they would have to establish whether these were actually byelaws which needed to be revoked or merely terms and conditions which would need no action to be taken against.

South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss raised concerns over the existing barriers at the market and said the licensing process needed to be considered.

Ms Truss added: “The market committee run these structures but I hope there is a way forward for traders to continue to do so but also that we are able to attract new traders and new people to the market.”

The MP met market traders on Monday to discuss ongoing concerns in relation to the operation of the market in relation to new licenses, layout and operation of the market.

Speaking before the meeting last night, she said: "’I am keen to see this resolved as soon as possible. I am receiving a number of concerns from traders as well as businesses in the town in relation to the market.

"I do appreciate that Covid-19 has created a number of challenges so it is therefore even more important that we support our local businesses and have a thriving and dynamic market. The current unease and uncertainty must not continue.

"I believe the market is a fantastic feature in the town, attracts residents from the surrounding areas into the centre to do their shopping. It is therefore incredibly important that we move forward, find a resolution to the current issues and support our market and town centre businesses.’’

The council overwhelmingly voted in favour of revoking the existing byelaws and licenses.

Plans are also in place for all food traders to display their hygiene ratings, planters instead of the barriers as well as phasing out the use of peat over six months.

Councillor Ben Molyneux-Hetherington said: “It’s lovely to see so many people passionate about the market which is one of the highlights of the town.”

Councillor David Sharman told the meeting: "There is an atmosphere that the traders are not happy and I do not understand why they are so upset .

"There must be something there. I have sat down and read the licence and it seems fine so what is wrong?"

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