Traders are a step closer to being able to set up stall on Daventry market for free after the district council recommended scrapping the fees in a bid to halt its 'demise'.
The market operates on Tuesday and Friday every week on the High Street, but recent years have seen the number of traders fall due to the decline of footfall in the town centre and increasing competition from online shopping.
Daventry has had a working market dating back more than 700 years, though the sale of livestock and cattle from centuries ago has more recently been replaced by food and grocery stalls.
And in a bid to keep that history going councillors have recommended scrapping the charges, which currently stand at £13.45 for a ten-foot stall on Tuesday, and £15.95 on Friday.
The move was agreed at a council strategy group meeting on Thursday evening (July 4), where councillors were told that to continue charging traders would ‘lead to the demise of the market in the near future’.
The scheme will still need rubber stamping from full council at a later date, but it won the backing of the majority of councillors on the strategy group.
Cabinet member for economy and regeneration, Councillor David James, said: “I think this is a very good idea, and I think it would be a small price to pay for what is a traditional market town.”
Within the last 12 months, the number of stalls has declined by two on Tuesdays from ten to eight, and from nine to five on Fridays.
The council itself took over the running of the market from Amey in June 2018, but has been unable to find a solution yet to stop the rot. The hope now is that the scrapping of the fees, which will actually cost the council roughly £20,000 in additional income, may breathe some new life back into it.
A report from the council’s executive director for business Simon Bowers, which was read by councillors at the meeting, states: “Several enquiries had been made from potential new traders, but with one exception these either tried trading and gave up after a few weeks, or having viewed the market decided not to attempt trading. The only new stall that has continued is the butcher’s van, possibly due to the closing of the butcher’s store opposite Boots in Bowen Square.
“The viability of the remaining traders is also under threat. It, therefore, seems likely that the continued imposition of charges will result in the market ceasing to operate.
“Given the circumstances, it was proposed that the council should cease levying a charge to trade at Daventry market. Whilst there was no guarantee that making the market free will ensure traders stay, it should make this more likely.”
But some councillors didn’t support the scheme, saying that it was not fair on high street traders.
Councillor Steve Osborne said: “If I was a local trader in Daventry I would be niggled that you would be letting market traders come in when it wasn’t a level playing field.”
And Labour leader Cllr Wendy Randall indicated that she had spoken to some High Street traders who were ‘disgruntled’ at the proposals.
But Councillor James responded: “Some of those stores get business rate relief, while some smaller shops don’t pay any business rates at all.”