Review suggests Fenland’s markets could be handed to town councils

HANDING over their running to town councils and offering stalls to budding entrepreneurs are two of the thoughts contained in a review by Fenland District Council of market day.

The council has already opted to let the Wisbech market be run by the town council and now the overview and scrutiny committee thinks March, Chatteris and Whittlesey Town Councils could be encouraged to follow suit.

Wide ranging proposals to boost market day were put to Cabinet yesterday (Thursday) following a study by the committee.

The sad fact, says the committee, is that market day isn’t what it was and last year the council made a �16,000 deficit on running market services.

Councillor Pop Jolley, committee chairman, said previous reports have shown the gradual decline in market trading throughout the country and Fenland, too, has experienced “a marginal decline in recent years”.

Cabinet was told that Wisbech Thursday Market with 16 regular traders and Wisbech Saturday market with 20 regular traders were best supported, whilst the Wednesday market in March attracted seven regular traders and the Saturday market 11 traders.

Chatteris and Whittlesey each attracted four traders although the committee reported 21 casual traders were usually spread variously across the four towns.

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“Regular traders attend the market whenever it is running and should they be ill or on holiday the council’s market team is informed,” said Cllr Jolley. “These traders are guaranteed to attend the majority of markets.

“Casual traders are just that and attend as and when they like with no regular bookings.”

Pricing is comparable with other towns, says Cllr Jolley, and if fees were to rise it could stop traders from coming and weaken the markets furthers.

Better marketing, a web presence, linking with tourism, offering new traders two for one stalls, promoting entrepreneurship by offering stalls to budding entrepreneurs and learning from successful markets are included in an action plan.