Row brewing over Swaffham's markets

A ROW is brewing over the future of open-air and indoor markets in Swaffham.


A ROW is brewing over the future of open-air and indoor markets in Swaffham.

A difference of opinion has arisen between town council officials responsible for the town's famous and well-established outdoor Saturday market and an indoor Friday market run by the community development group, Iceni Partnership.

The issue is due to be debated at tonight's meeting of Swaffham town council. In advance of the debate, Iceni Partnership manager Dennis Tallon, has spoken of his fears that moves are being made to close down the Iceni-operated Friday indoor market or change its name from market to craft fair.

In addition to the regular indoor Friday market, there is a second market on some Saturday mornings during the year when the Assembly Rooms are not booked for events.

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But Mr Tallon says that there is a view by some town council officials and members that the Iceni market on Saturdays takes business away from the council's own traditional Saturday market.

The row comes at a time when a new �35,000 project is moving ahead aimed at putting Swaffham markets back on the map.

A partnership is being established to bring together a range of groups in the town to attract more stalls to the established council-run outdoor Saturday market, bring back an auctioneer into the town, re-introduce a farmers' market and also stage a series of themed markets.

The initiative will also highlight Swaffham's history of successful markets and promote the Iceni-run Friday morning indoor market and the regular antique fairs at the Ecotech centre.

Breckland's Local Strategic Partnership has agreed to give �10,500 towards Swaffham's Market Traditions project.

But Mr Tallon says that on the one hand the town council is happy to accept cash to promote the town's market traditions and yet it wants to see the Friday market (and Saturday indoor market when held) become a craft fair in name only and so reduce the competition element with its own Saturday market.

'I am also concerned about the possibility of the markets being licensed because this could mean that there could be conditions attached to its operation such as number of stalls and opening times,' said Mr Tallon.

Swaffham town mayor Richard Harman said he didn't want to comment on the issue because it was currently under discussion and it was early days in the debate.

Town councillor Pipa Wade said her personal view was that a balance was needed but that there would be further discussion at tonight's town council meeting. The meeting, at Swaffham town hall, starting at 6.45pm, is open to the public.