Traders’ call to keep markets

Sleaford Market Place. EMN-190723-105403001
Sleaford Market Place. EMN-190723-105403001

Traders in Sleaford’s Market Place have expressed concerns about recent decisions to hold many of the town’s specialist markets, away from the Market Place.

They feel the Town Council’s actions are making it harder for them by not encouraging extra footfall to a shopping area they fear is being neglected.

Lorraine Buckley of Lorraine’s Children’s Wear said it was the last straw when Sleaford Town Council announced it would be holding October’s St Denys’ Market, marking the patron sint of the parish church, in the Town Hall this year.

Mrs Buckley said: “They (the town council) have done nothing here since the Christmas Market and it seems that is the only thing it will be used for. We have a beautiful market place and it is not being used to its full potetential.”

She said the St Denys’ Market is usually combined with the harvest festival in the church and found it odd not to have it close by. “I understand the weather can be bad but they could bring the stalls inside the church - I’m sure they would accommodate them.”

The St George’s Market and the 1940s events were both at the Town Hall. The Town Crier competition and market in May had been planned for the Market Place but decamped to the Town Hall due to rain. Mrs Buckley said: “I paid for a pitch and had a gazebo outside my shop with Avengers characters doing selfies with children to join in, but then they moved the event. It rained but it was not that bad.

“The footfall is not amazing here and by holding specialist markets over at Navigation Yard it is taking precious footfall away from our businesses. It is lovely to have the stalls here outside our shops.”

Kenneth and Wendy Hanslip of neighbouring Bellissimo Boutique were of the same opinion the the St Denys’ Market should be in front of the church.

Mayor of Sleaford Adrian Snookes has played a big part in putting on the themed markets and explained the main reason was the unpredictable weather. “Last year we had gazebos that kept blowing down and it wasn’t safe. Quite a lot of stalls had to pack up and go. But we are looking more positively at ways to purchase more sturdy stalls to bring markets back into the Market Place.”

Clerk to the council, Kevin Martin added that the 2018 St Denys’ Market saw bad weather leading to some traders not attending and others unable to set up due to high winds, moving into the church rooms, with most packing up by 11am as there was no footfall.

He said there is the availability of electricity, indoor space and public conveniences at the Town Hall which allows for a wider range of traders both big and small, and the ability to expand onto Eastgate Green and car park.

Mr Martin added that Navigation Yard offers more shelter plus a free hour’s parking close by.

He said the Town Council do not own the market rights or the Market Place and have to observe the terms of the lease ith North Kesteven District Council.

“Recognising the challenges faced by traditional markets the council has very recently set up a group of councillors to consider the future of the markets that we operate. This group will be looking to get input from both the existing market traders and the independent traders with businesses next to or near the market place.”

The clerk and the Mayor have met with the new Sleaford Independent Traders Association, offering initial meeting space.