Swaffham market phased reopening plans approved for full return of all traders
A town council has approved plans for a phased reopening of a market which will see plants, tools, clothing and watches among the products being sold again.
Swaffham Town Council overwhelmingly agreed with councillor Brendan Holmes' proposal to ratify the decision to allow a phased reopening over the space of three weeks.
Breckland councillor and auctioneer Fabian Eagle has been overseeing the process which will lead to a full return for traders while maintaining safety measures for the public. Five more traders will be returning tomorrow (Saturday, June 6).
The market had already been reopened for food essentials from the beginning of May, but now plans are working towards a full return as lockdown restrictions ease.
Mr Eagle said: "We have always said that Swaffham is the best market town in Norfolk and we want to make it the safest.
"We were taken a bit aback by the government announcement to open so quickly but we are already planning for stages of reopening and which stalls we can bring back at what time.
"There is a four stage plan and-the same as when we opened the food stalls-what we have done is to try to comply with government guidelines, and we looked at how the market would normally be fantastically busy and bottle-necked."
As part of the first stage working towards the full reopening, the plant stalls are being moved near the war memorial so that they do not interfere with the food stalls. Stall holders selling watches and clothes, as well as a burger van also return as part of this stage from tomorrow.
Then stage two will see two tool traders back on the market, before stage three is the full return of everything being back to normal.
Mr Eagle has been stewarding the food stalls, and ensuring social distancing measures are in place.
He has been well-placed for this role having encountered the need for bio-security through his role with poultry and livestock auctions.
Indeed, this is the fourth lockdown he has encountered in 20 years. Mr Eagle previously saw his poultry trade in lockdown from December 2016 to the end of May 2017 due to the Avian influenza epidemic.
"For the reopening of the food market, I was aware of the need for bio-security as my role in poultry and livestock auctions had previously encountered similar things in terms of stopping the spread of a virus," Mr Eagle said.
He has therefore been well-equipped when it has come to stewarding Swaffham Market as safety measures such as spray and disinfectants have been used, as well as minimising handling.
Speaking about the stages of reopening, Mr Eagle said the first two stages of planning looked at complying with government guidelines, the third explored how the operation works as being economically beneficial for traders.
The fourth explored whether it works for the public in terms of making them feel safe and comfortable.
On reopening food stalls earlier than markets in Lynn, Husntanton and Downham, Mr Eagle added: "There were a lot of people worried by the headlines when markets closed except for food markets. A lot people did not realise it was legal, just as supermarkets have been open."
Swaffham's Breckland and county councillor, Ed Colman said: "The more market traders we can get back earning a living and trading again, the better it will be for our economic recovery as soon as possible."
During Swaffham Town Council's emergency meeting this morning, councillor Brendan Holmes also proposed taking decisions regarding the market back to the council's Markets and Events Committee. This was unanimously agreed.
Town clerk Richard Bishop said updates regarding the phased reopening will be posted on the council's website and social media pages.
Mr Bishop also praised the deputy town clerk's role in "pulling everything together" in a short space of time.
The meeting also heard that deputy mayor Keith Sandle will be standing down from this role due to personal reasons, but will remain a town councillor.
The process of selecting an interim replacement for deputy mayor will be on the town council's agenda for a meeting on Wednesday.