Displaced Whittlesey market trader says she will keep fighting until she gets pitch back

14:03 12 March 2014

Whittlesey market trader protest. Val Brandon, Picture: Steve Williams.

Whittlesey market trader protest. Val Brandon, Picture: Steve Williams.

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A market trader who was kicked off her pitch of nearly two-and-a-half years says she will keep fighting until she gets it back.

Valerie Brandon, of Spalding, was kicked off Whittlesey market square by Fenland District Council last month after changing from being a permanent trader to a casual trader.

Mrs Brandon’s stall has been replaced by fruit and vegetable stall Norfolk Produce, run by Lee Martin, of Downham Market.

Mrs Brandon is not giving up without a fight - she has picketed in the market square every Friday since and started a petition which has attracted 250 signatures.

She said: “I’m not going to give up until I get my pitch back. The council has put me out of work. This is our way of making a stand.

“We have been here for two-and-a-half years, longer than anyone else on the square, yet the council says we are not committed.”

In a letter from Mike Chapman, the council’s markets and events manager, on February 21, Mrs Brandon was told that, following her decision to cancel her market licence, her permission to attend the square as a casual trader was “revoked with immediate effect”.

Mr Chapman said the council had a duty to provide the best possible service to customers at its markets and a licensed trader is committed to attend regularly, whereas a casual trader does not have any formal commitments.

Licensed traders pay £13.05 a week to have a stall while casual traders pay £19.05 each time they trade.

Mrs Brandon has been in touch with FDC’s head of leisure services Phil Hughes, who told her he will look in to the situation, but she says she is still waiting for answers.

She said: “Phil Hughes called me and said he would organise a portfolio meeting to look into the situation and whether there could be two vegetable stalls on the square.

“But the situation has still not been resolved so I will continue to fight for my pitch.”

An FDC spokesman said: “It was Mrs Brandon’s decision to give up her permanent licence. She joined the market at Whittlesey as a casual trader in October 2011. Six months later, in April 2012, she decided to take a licence to become a permanent trader, thus protecting her position on the market.

“She considered cancelling her licence in February 2013 and was made fully aware then of what the consequences of doing that might be. At that point she decided to retain her permanent licence.

“In January this year she decided to cancel her permanent licence and was told when her notice period finished.

“Following her decision to give up her permanent slot, we went ahead and found a replacement trader who was willing to take up the commitment of a permanent licence.

“As a result, we advised Mrs Brandon that there was no further space for her as a casual trader because the vacant permanent licensed space had been issued to someone else.”

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