A COUNCIL debate on Leek’s Wednesday market ended up with several opposition members walking out after the ruling Conservatives voted to pull the plug on a working group which was looking at ways to recommend improvements.
Prior to leaving the debate, members of Staffordshire Moorlands District Counil’s service delivery overview and scrutiny panel had agreed to continue the market trial on the public realm area at the bottom of Derby Street.
This has seen traders split between that site and the Wednesday market’s traditional venue of Market Square.
The continuation of the trial was on the basis that cars were not permitted on the Market Square.
Councillor and town mayor, John Fisher, said: “The market belongs in the Market Square where it has been for a 1,000 years.
“The market is less than half full and when you go past in a car it seems so sad. The two site are better together and the market would be more appropraite next to the Butter and Trestle market.”
Councillor Pam Wood said the working group should continue, especially as the Butter Market, adjacent to Market Square, was “under threat”.
She said: “The Butter Market is on the asset list, which mean it could be farmed out to other organisations to run.” One Conservative councillor, Stephen Ellis, spoke against folding the working group.
He said: “A bombshell was made when it was announced to split the market.
“We have repeatedly asked how do we promote the market.
“However, people have been thwarted and banned from speaking by this authority.”
Moorlands Democratic Alliance councillor Linda Malyon added: “Councillor Ellis is perfectly right and we have be bamboozled by this authority.”
Labour leader Kevin Jackson said: “The working group should be supported until a final decision is made on the market.”
However, Councillor Brian Johnson said it looked like the working group wanted to take over officers’ jobs.
He said: “We should draw a line under the working group for now.
“The working group can't oversee the work of the market; it is an officer’s job."
Councillor Edwin Wain, who has the responsibility for planning and markets, said: “Leek’s Wednesday market is 41 per cent up. The traders would not come if they were not taking money.
“Since I have taken on this job I have walked around the markets and it is very busy.”
Deputy leader of the district council, Arthur Forrester, insisted the Butter Market was not under threat.
He said: “It is wrong to say the Butter Market is under threat.
We are looking at all properties in the Staffordshire Moorlands.”
Following a vote it was agreed to that the market working group should be folded.
* FOLLOWING the decision to fold the market working group, former Leek town mayor Pam Wood told the Post & Times that the decision was the “last straw”.
Mrs Wood said: “People on the market working group have given up their time to do something for the town, but they have been ignored.
“We asked for the tourist information officer to attend one of the meetings, but they were not allowed.
“The Butter Market is on the list to be discussed to be taken over by community groups or other stakeholders.” Chairman of the market working group, Barry Cowie, said: “I am very surprised the council said no to letting us continue.
“The working group wanted to look at opening the Butter Market on Totally Locally days where people could go in. Now we have been stopped from doing anything.”