CAMPAIGNERS backing Basingstoke market traders have handed in a petition to the council, asking for the stallholders to be allowed to trade alongside a farmers’ market when it comes to town.

As previously reported in The Gazette, traders from Basingstoke’s weekly Saturday market were angry after receiving a letter from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council informing them that they would be pushed aside on the last Saturday of the month to make way for Hampshire Farmers’ Market, which will operate from the Top of The Town.

A report on the matter has been prepared for Councillor Ranil Jayawardena, borough deputy leader and cabinet member for strategy, who will make the final decision. No consultation was held with stallholders.

The report said: “There is a likelihood that existing market traders will be displaced by specialist market trading on a Wednesday and Saturday, unless they are able to adapt and become part of that specialist market offer.

“This may result in unfavourable publicity and reaction from those traders and their customers.”

The petition of around 500 signatures was handed to the borough council by Alan Stone, Basingstoke UKIP leader, who also runs a shop at the Top of The Town.

He believes the two markets could run together, adding: “The council is convinced there has to be an exclusivity deal. Once they say they are doing something, they don’t want to lose face.”

Mr Stone, who said many Top of The Town traders had signed the petition, added: “We love the idea of the farmers’ market. It’s not that we don’t want the farmers’ market, but it’s not fair on stallholders who have served us for years.

“Whatever your thoughts on the market, they have a right to be there.”

Philip Howe, who runs a butchers stall at the market, said: “We haven’t heard anyone say that we should go. They all support us.”

Hampshire Farmers’ Markets states on its website that it will be in Basingstoke on March 29. But Alex Handford, business manager for the not-for-profit organisation, said this date has been put back because work to repave the Top of the Town is behind schedule. A new date has not yet been confirmed.

Hampshire County Council said the repaving work has been delayed by a week because of the wet weather, and it should be complete by the week beginning April 7.

Ms Handford was reluctant to say whether Hampshire Farmers’ Market was willing to trade alongside the regular stallholders.

She added: “It would depend on the site layout and space available. There are all sorts of things that need to be taken into consideration. I can’t answer that.” However, she did say the organisation did not want to “upset” anyone.

Cllr Jayawardena said the council is working to see if a “suitable compromise can be agreed” to allow the two markets to trade together.

He added: “This would be subject to a formal decision being made on whether to bring a farmers’ market back to Basingstoke, the signing of a licence agreement, the completion of the works by Hampshire County Council in Market Place, and the agreement of an official start date.”