TRADERS at Basingstoke’s market are fuming after being pushed aside to make way for a farmers’ market once a month.
Stallholders, some of whom have been trading in the town for over 30 years, have now started a petition, calling for a rethink, which they will submit to the borough council. It has already attracted 200 signatures.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has been in negotiations with Hampshire Farmers’ Markets, a not-for-profit organisation, to bring a regular market back to the Top of The Town once a month.
But stallholders at the weekly Saturday market have now received a letter from the council informing them that when the farmers’ market is in town on the last Saturday of the month, they will not be able to trade alongside them.
The letter stated: “We regret that this will result in the Saturday traders losing a day’s trading in Basingstoke.”
Emily Broun, who has been selling eggs for four years from her farm, said: “We don’t mind working alongside the farmers’ market. But to lose a day’s trading – that’s our livelihood.”
She pointed out that traders have put up with disruption caused by work to revamp the Top of The Town, and have been temporarily relocated outside Debenhams.
The 31-year-old added: “They hit us at Christmas time, and then moved us back, confusing customers. The footfall isn’t very good here at the temporary location. The market has depleted but we are the ones who have stuck with it.”
Emily said there has been no consultation, and added the traders plan to set up their stalls in protest when the farmers’ market arrives, possibly on March 29.
Keith Eaton, who has sold fruit and vegetables in Basingstoke for over 30 years, said: “It’s terrible. They moved us down here to this dead spot and we aren’t making any money. But I’m here just to keep my customers for when we go back.
“Then they tell us that we can’t be here on one Saturday every month. The farmers’ market has been gone six years. It used to be on a Sunday, so it didn’t affect us. All of a sudden they want to chuck us off. It’s ludicrous.”
The farmers’ market, which promotes and sells a wide range of produce from locally-based producers, stopped running in Basingstoke in 2008.
Philip Howe, who has run the butchers stall in Basingstoke for five years, said: “Why can’t we trade alongside the farmers’ market? Or why can’t the farmers’ market be on a different day? The last Saturday of the month, a lot of people get their monthly pay, and it’s the best Saturday.”
Councillor Ranil Jayawardena, deputy leader of the borough council, said changes had to be made to ensure the Top of The Town’s “vitality.”
He added: “Taking action means that you cannot stand still or leave things just as they are when they aren’t working. The market has been declining and we need to do something to breathe new life into it for the good of all the traders.”
He said Hampshire Farmers’ Market, with its existing following, could benefit current stallholders by attracting more people to Top of The Town.
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