A couple of months ago I wrote a plea to support our local markets – part of the lifeblood of our town centres.
It didn’t work.
After a hard winter of rain keeping shoppers in the dry cover of a supermarket, things were just starting to look up for the traders in Gorrell Tank, Whitstable, with the arrival of a relatively warm and dry spring.
But now – unbelievably – the market has to close for six weeks.
That’s six prime weeks during the best trading period of the year.
Southern Water needs to make repairs. That’s quite understandable. But why this couldn’t have been better coordinated with the council to provide an alternative location beats me. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods.
The damage from the six weeks of missed business is bad enough. But it’s the shoppers who will have got out of the habit of visiting the market that may be hard to lure back that’s adding to worries.
“We were originally told by Southern Water that they would close half the Gorrell Tank and let us continue trade in the other half,” June Rayfield of Badgers Croft Farm, who’s been selling wonderfully fresh free-range eggs at the market for the past five years, told me. “We’re open to any suggestions but we feel so upset that it’s just been stopped. We haven’t even been given the information to let our customers know that we won’t be there this Thursday! We only got the news for definite on Friday 25th April.”
Andrew Cullen Chairman of Whitstable Market Traders, said: ” On Saturday and Sunday the carpark was not closed and full of cars giving us hope that maybe we could have a market on Thursday 1 May to tell our customers what was happening and where we might be. This was not to be as the car park was closed on Monday 28 April when a further meeting was held by CCC to discuss the situation of car parking, parking permits and hopefully the market move. Alas we were told that parking must take priority over the market. They did not like the idea of the market being held in the harbour, no reason given. We appreciate the closing of the car park is not the fault of the council but lies with Southern Water, especially given such short notice but the future of the market really depends on being opened weekly within the heart of Whitstable. Ideally the harbour,castle grounds or the long stay car park in Tankerton”
To address a letter to this paper last week pointing out that the price of a loaf of bread is lower in the supermarket, it certainly isn’t the case with fruit & veg. I got two big cauliflowers for £1.50, in Tesco or Sainsbury’s it would certainly have cost more than that, perhaps some of the shops do cater for the DFL’s who are used to higher prices, but not our market & check out the brilliant Georges Mini market!
While I’m on the topic of feedback, I do appreciate all the responses to my column analyzing the failed business plan for Manston Airport. Let me reiterate, I want nothing more than business to thrive in this area and that, of course, includes having a busy local airport. I logged on last year as a “supporter” of Manston Airport on www.whynotmanston.org & and have personally tried my best to book flights locally rather than driving to Gatwick. But we must have an honest discussion about this if we want the airport to take off again. Routing passengers via Amsterdam has simply not been cost or time effective for most would-be customers. This model just didn’t fly. To support Tweet @savemanston or find their Facebook page.