Residents have warned the popular Lewes farmers’ market could face closure after 17 years of successful trading due to council demands.
Lewes District Council has asked the market’s organisers, Common Cause Cooperatives, to look at alternative layouts for the stalls after surrounding shops complained the current format was obscuring their store frontages.
However, stall-holders have threatened to leave the market if the arrangement is changed as they believe there is no other feasible way to run the market other than its current layout.
Marilyn and Robin Hanbury said: “The market is currently held twice a month in the Cliffe pedestrian precinct and the only feasible arrangement of stalls, which has been found from experience, is to line up the stalls facing each other on either side of the 3m wide cobbled area. The number of trees, benches, waste bins and other street furniture make alternative arrangements difficult for customers and stall-holders alike.
“The market operates on the first and third Saturday from 9am to 1pm, a total of say nine hours out of 200 to 300 hours a month that the shops are open. However, some of the shops in the precinct have approached the district council and Common Cause to complain their frontages are obscured by the stalls while the market is in progress, and that they are suffering a drop in sales as a result.
“One would have thought the increase in footfall on market days would have compensated but apparently this is not the case.
“Common Cause has considered a number of possible arrangements, all of which turn out to suffer from problems previously identified, and found it to be unworkable for a range of reasons.
“The continued existence of the market is now threatened as number of stall-holders faced with the difficulties of setting up and taking down the market stalls to accommodate the council’s suggested mode of operation have stated they would not attend in future, and this includes at least two traders that have been at there since its inception.”
A spokesperson for Lewes District Council said: “Lewes District Council supports the farmers’ market and has done for many years.
“We have met with Common Cause and asked them to trial this weekend one of the proposals they put to us.
“We understand their concerns about organising the stalls for a new layout and this is why we have asked them to try it out and we will work with them to reach a solution.
“We do have to consider the needs of people with disabilities who wish to access the shops and the market, along with shop users and other traders.
“We are confident a compromise can be found which we hope all parties will be happy with.”
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