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Feelings high over Swaffham market

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 August 2010 | UPDATED: 10:57 16 September 2010

Stallholder David Smith, with Joan Barrall, left and Carol Rainbow, residents who have formed a committee to protect the market, hold some of the collected signatures against the Swaffham Town Council closing the Friday Market. Picture: Denise Bradley

Stallholder David Smith, with Joan Barrall, left and Carol Rainbow, residents who have formed a committee to protect the market, hold some of the collected signatures against the Swaffham Town Council closing the Friday Market. Picture: Denise Bradley

Daisy Wallage

A campaign has been launched in Swaffham to protect the Friday market.

The popular event, held at the Assembly Rooms, boasts around 40 stalls and is a social hub for the town, attracting coach loads of passing tourists as well as residents.

A campaign has been launched in Swaffham to protect the Friday market.

The popular event, held at the Assembly Rooms, boasts around 40 stalls and is a social hub for the town, attracting coach loads of passing tourists as well as residents.

It started life in 1974 as a small WI market, but as it grew increasingly successful, Swaffham Town Council received complaints from other traders claiming it was damaging the Saturday Market.

Negotiations - described as “delicate” - are going on between the council and the Iceni Partnership, which runs it.

It is understood the council wants to limit what stalls are on the Friday Market.

Stallholder David Smith said: “What the council wants to do is licence and control what stalls are here. They are trying to take the soul out of the market, which will cause it to fold.

“The council is trying to nibble away at it until it goes away, but we are going to bite back. There is a lot of feeling about this.”

Mr Smith said Friday's event did not directly compete with the council-run Saturday Market, with only a handful of stalls overlapping.

Loyal market regular Carol Rainbow has formed a 20-strong “Leave Our Market Alone” committee and said attractions like the market were vital in keeping the town alive.

She said: “It benefits all the shops and the money goes back into Swaffham. It's a community within a community. We are going to fight this.”

The market is visited by residents from the town's care homes and used as a meeting place for older people in the town.

Mr Smith collected nearly 1,000 signatures last year in a bid to keep a short-lived Saturday market going at the Assembly Rooms.

He said the council had treated the petition as one objection because it was a single document, so he is collecting names and comments on separate sheets this time.

More than 100 sheets were returned in less than an hour on Friday and one warned the council: “You will choke the life out of an already struggling community”

Mr Smith added: “Even if I end up with thousands of bits of paper, I will personally put them in envelopes and hand them in. It's completely farcical.”

Maureen Rutland, who organises the event on behalf of the Iceni Partnership, said it all started with four stalls, but now she had to turn stallholders down.

“I was devastated when I found out,” she said.

Dennis Tallon, manager of the Iceni Partnership, said it was in delicate negotiations with the council and hoped to reach an amicable agreement before it met on September 8.

A council spokesman said it had no intention of shutting the market.

“The Friday Market used to be run as a WI market selling homemade cakes, jams and crafts etc. The Saturday traders do not have a problem with this. It has become a problem as it appears the Friday Market has become more commercialised.”

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