Whitby’s historic market will operate for up to four days a week as Scarborough Council tries to find a compromise between traders and local businesses.
The council’s cabinet unanimously voted today to reduce the trading times of the market to three days a week, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday, down from seven at present.
A farmer’s market will operate on Thursdays and on the other days concessions will be offered to local businesses to have café seating within Market Place.
During today’s meeting, the council apologised to the more than 7,000 people who signed a petition last year asking to keep it as it was as officers incorrectly stated the petition figure as 700 in the report which went before councillors.
Market trader Anne Marshall addressed the meeting and told the cabinet that any decision to reduce the number of days would impact on her livelihood.
She said she had been trading there since 2008.
Mrs Marshall added: “This decision will decide whether I have a viable business and whether I can pay my mortgage and stay in Whitby.”
Cllr Bill Chatt (Ind), the portfolio holder for public health and housing, said the council had faced a difficult job balancing the conflicting wishes of the market traders and business owners.
He said the market had been mismanaged in the past by the council which had led to issues.
He said: “Things had just got out of hand and gone from two market trading days which was traditional to more-or-less do a seven day do you want [situation] and we needed to bring it back.”
Cllr Chatt said the views and wishes of the market traders and local businesses were “chalk and cheese” with businesses wanting the market to revert back to its two-day schedule.
He said the council had tried to find a “balance” with its proposals.
During the council’s consultation market traders reported “bullying” and “whispering campaigns” from businesses in the area against them.
One respondent even claimed the council “was manipulated by organised lies” to make changes to how the market operated, including appointing a new market supervisor.
On the other side, businesses told the council they thought it was “unfair” that many of the market stalls undercut shops on goods while not having to pay business rates.
Another wrote: “It’s very frustrating as a local business trying to survive in an extremely tough current economy (with business rates crippling businesses) that you then walk past the market to see them selling very much the same stuff as you without the rates [and] astronomical costs.”
As part of the decision, borough council officers will enter into discussions with Whitby Town Council about the future running of the market and also what to do with the former Town Hall, which sits within the market.
The councils will explore ways to get funding for the Grade II listed building to bring it back into active use.
The council will also look at putting up new signs to the market as well as lighting and power points.
The four concessions for cafés are being advertised online and will bring in close to £25,000 a year for the authority.