Public Meeting Friday 29th July
You are invited to an important Public Meeting taking place in Canterbury this Friday 29th July to discuss and expose matters surrounding Canterbury City Council’s plans to disband Canterbury’s historic market in favour of spending £1.2m “improving” St George’s Street – and scattering traders to sites across the city.
Market traders, street traders and their families will be attending, together with local residents and market customers – in short, YOU will have an opportunity to offer your views and have your say on this important issue – so please come along and do so.
Importantly, in the interests of a balanced debate I invited no fewer than 11 council representatives to take up two spaces available on the meeting’s panel – including council leader, Ben Fitter-Harding and his deputy, Cllr Rachel Carnac, other elected councillors and salaried council officers involved in pushing through this policy. Cllr Fitter-Harding replied to me stating categorically: “I will not be attending your meeting” while Cllr Carnac informed me she has a prior engagement. All others have remained silent.
I also wrote to Canterbury BID (Business Improvement District), an organisation claiming to represent and support the city’s “business community” but I have yet to receive even an acknowledgement of my correspondence.
Should no representative from BID or the city council come forward to defend the disbandment of the market at our meeting on Friday, I believe we are entitled to make of this what we will. My own view is that is due to cowardice.
The Gazette newspaper helpfully posted news about this meeting on 14th July and again on 21st July.
Rather than engage with the public, or the traders whose livelihoods are threatened by this disbandment, the council instead decided to speedily stage its own Cabinet meeting to take place the evening before – when it is expected that the ruling cabinet/executive of 6 Conservative councillors (Ben Fitter-Harding, Rachel Carnac, Ashley Clark, Andrew Cook, Barbara Flack and Joe Howes) will vote to push through their policy of disbanding the market, referencing a report hastily issued this week following a council consultation that’s considered to be “a sham” by traders and the public alike.
It is crucial that YOU are aware of just some of what has been going on with the council’s determination to push through this policy – and what will be discussed at Friday’s public meeting.
Are you aware of the following?
- The first knowledge market traders had about the council’s plans to disband the market was via a story in the local newspaper in 2020. Why were traders not given proper notice of a decision which affects their livelihoods?
- Steve Bamber, Chairman of Canterbury Market Traders Association worked hard to produce recommendations for the council of alternative trading sites – all of which were totally ignored. Instead, wholly unacceptable and unworkable sites were presented to traders in the council’s recent consultation document.
- The consultation failed to make clear to the public the important distinction between a market trader and a street trader, and its report shows a clear intention to relegate market traders to street trader status while scattering traders around the city – as opposed to keeping a market in a central location – which even the “sham” consultation report made clear was a popular choice for residents.
- Market traders are entitled to, and require the use of gazebos from which to trade, but the consultation offered gazebo pitches only in 2 areas – and in which market traders could not possibly survive. (Station Road West and Iron Bar Lane.)
- An important letter, dated 12th June, from Steve Bamber to council officer, Bill Hicks, relayed important concerns about the consultation – but went unanswered. Steve Bamber had to go public about this to gain attention.
- In spite of the unacceptable options given to traders in the consultation, the council pressured traders to respond to it; in effect, warning them that if they refused to respond, they would go to the back of the queue regarding any future pitches. Note: “We will look to accommodate those who have responded and then only after this will consider others who still wish to trade, but have not responded.“
- A request from Steve Bamber to a council officer for either a Helpline or an official extension to the consultation deadline, in order for traders with fluency or literacy difficulties to have time to understand the consultation, was not taken up.
- Similarly, Steve Bamber’s warning went unheeded that it would be inappropriate for a member of the council to try to assist those traders with responses due to a potential conflict of interest (ie the traders’ best interests regarding their livelihoods are in conflict with the council’s plans). Nevertheless, a council officer did assist those traders with their responses and this entailed going beyond the official deadline – which was not extended for residents or for other traders.
- The council had been informed that this public meeting is taking place on Friday but it has swiftly scheduled its own executive meeting to take place 24 hours before – in order to vote through its own plans.
- The council’s general lack of engagement with the traders has clearly now extended to this public meeting – in effect the public is being snubbed while council policy is being steamrollered through.
- The rationale given by council for the market needing to disappear is that £1.2M of “Improvements” are to take place to St George’s Street – including new paving and some trees. It is understood the funding for this would come from the government’s Levelling Up fund for which the council was due to submit final proposals by July 6th – though that deadline came and went due to delays with the online portal. What happens if our cash-strapped council is unsuccessful in obtaining the £1.2m to fund its redevelopment of St George’s Street – and why does the council continue to use the word “Improvements” when residents know that this expensive makeover will produce anything but?
These are just some of the issues that will be debated on Friday – with or without the council or Canterbury BID being present.
Should Cllr Fitter-Harding and his ruling executive believe that this public meeting might be made redundant by the staging of their own cabinet meeting on 28th July – they are very wrong.
Come along on Friday to YOUR meeting – when Steve Bamber and I will be discussing these points – with or without a council representative present.
Steve Bamber says: “This meeting gives a proper chance for traders, residents and market customers to give their views, which is particularly important when we are never given much time to do that at council meetings. It’s very important that the public realises that there was only limited opportunity to comment properly on the recent consultation due to the way the questions had been phrased by the council. That surely will give the council the chance to interpret any comments they received in a way that favours their plans. However, hopefully this public meeting will give everyone the opportunity to question councillors or council officers and discuss this unpopular policy to scatter traders to pitches all over the city – many in places where market traders could never survive.”
The meeting will also offer a chance for discussion of the need for the market during the current cost of living crisis, its importance to disabled customers and the general loss to Canterbury of such a thriving colourful asset.
It will be chaired by Dr Ian Jasper, Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, and will take place at:-
The PLCC Hall (Professional Learning and Community Centre) The Canterbury Primary School City View, Franklyn Road, Canterbury CT2 8PT 6.30pm-8.30pm
This is a meeting for YOU – the people – so take advantage of that, bring your families, bring your placards, have YOUR say… and spread the word!
Please sign and share this petition to Support Canterbury Market:
Steve Bamber has been a Canterbury Market Trader for 26 years and Chairman of the Canterbury Market Association for 13 years,
Julie Wassmer is a TV drama writer, author and campaigner. Her Whitstable Pearl crime novels, and the TV series based them, are set in Canterbury and its neighbouring town of Whitstable, where she has lived for 23 years.
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