Traders anger over proposed rise in pitch fees

MARKET traders in Ely have hit out at the district council over a proposed rise in their pitch fees which they say could force them out of business.

MARKET traders in Ely have hit out at the district council over a proposed rise in their pitch fees which they say could force them out of business.

Traders on the Saturday craft and collectables market say East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) has put forward plans for a �48 per month increase in their pitch fees which, they say, amounts to a 67 per cent rise on their current fee.

The traders believe the increase is unsustainable and have said that as many as 20 of them may well be forced to give up their pitch.

Stall holder Chris Davies, told the Ely Standard: “We feel like the council are going to put us out of work, we would have been happy to consider a small increase but they have done it at such an unbelievable level.

“We won the battle with them in February but now I think they are trying to make the stall holders pay. We never wanted a review carried out, we just wanted to carry on as normal.”

According to traders, the council has also proposed that traders sign up to a minimum 12-month pitch agreement.

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Downham Market stall holder Darren, said: “I have been on the craft and collectables market for a year and I have just started to build up a customer base but if the council do what they are proposing it will finish me.

“People come from a long way to see my stall but if the fees go up by �40 or �50 I won’t be able to afford to carry on.”

At a full council meeting in February plans to stop erecting stalls on the market were scrapped at the last minute amid a legal challenge from traders.

The district council said it needed to introduce the changes to the market to plug a �30,000 hole in its budget for 2010/11.

After the meeting, the council agreed to set up a committee to consult with traders on the future of the market and explore how best to plug the gap.

Soham trader Mick Stimson, said: “This craft and collectables market is unique, there really aren’t many of us around and I can’t image what it would be like on a Saturday if we weren’t here.”

Responding to the claims, Fred Brown, leader of ECDC, said: “We are in the middle of the second round of consultation and it is very important that traders have their say on the draft improvement plan which has been put forward which includes a proposal to charge �10 for the supply and dismantle of stalls on a Saturday and is proposed to be voluntary.

“Clearly this is not an easy option for a few but we have worked very hard to come up with ideas which find the savings which are needed. These are incredibly difficult times for the public sector with more and more pressure coming on our budgets so we believe the solution is to work together to survive in these tough times.

“However, let us be very clear, these proposals will not signal the end of Ely Markets. We have a strong and vibrant collection of markets as the 10 years of the Farmers Market goes to prove and we will continue to work in it’s best interests.”