Traders fight bombshell plan to close historic market
FURIOUS traders are fighting secret council plans to close a Dorchester market that has been running for centuries.
They claim a report calling for the end of the Cornhill market in 18 months' time is a bombshell that would ruin them.
Traders say the move would breach a borough charter dating from the 1600s that grants a market on the South Street site.
The report also calls for the axing of visiting markets further along South Street including farmers' markets and speciality French and Tunisian markets.
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Exceptions would be made for markets on Christmas Cracker Night and Dorchester carnival.
The report, by West Dorset District Council property and facilities manager Rosie Darkin, was due to be considered by the Dorchester Markets Informal Joint Panel on Wednesday afternoon.
It followed a review by a working group of councillors and officers.
But the group of around nine regular traders is angry that they knew nothing about the review.
Paetra Withnall, who has had a stall for eight years selling jewellery, bags and scarves, said: "We're all business people who have been earning our living here even through the recession.
"This would mean the end of our businesses and effectively make us redundant.
"We don't get complaints - quite the opposite. Shopkeepers and customers want us here.
"There has been a market in Cornhill continuously since the charter was granted nearly 400 years ago.
"We're angry about it and the way they are doing this."
Rowena Evans, who owns Country Arts framing, submitted a statement from the traders to the panel describing the move as a bombshell.
It stated that traders had not been consulted and the proposal to stop their licences from 2014 was unfair.
Traders claim they had been told changes being considered related only to the payment system.
Mrs Evans said: "We draw people to this end of South Street. That helps the shops too."
Traders were invited to meet the panel before the meeting to voice their concerns.
The panel is comprised of members from the district council and Dorchester Town Council.
The report calls for the recommendations to go to the district council's executive committee and the town council's policy committee.
It states the reason for the recommendations was to assist with the implementation of a vision for South Street.
The report states that closing the daily Cornhill market would lose annual income of around £31,000 shared between the two authorities.
If it continued with a higher degree of enforcement of regulations it would break even with no profit.
It states that visiting markets had not drawn more shoppers to Dorchester and had generated complaints from existing businesses.
The working panel concluded Cornhill market did not add to the street-scene and the cost of enforcement of regulations would make it unviable.
Current licences expire on 1st March. The recommendation is for existing traders to be offered one further year.