City councillor reverses decision and supports Canterbury Market
To date, Whitstable Views has published seven previous articles (see below) on the ongoing campaign to save Canterbury’s historic market. Currently, the market is threatened by Canterbury City Council’s plans for a £1.2m development of St George’s Street and its further plans to scatter existing market traders to small “street trader” pitches across the city, effectively depriving Canterbury of a market in one central location.
In the first two of the Whitstable Views pieces on this issue I suggested various ways that market supporters could show their opposition to these plans — including exercising a democratic right not to vote at the next council election for any of the councillors who had voted for this policy — or the council leader presiding over it. We duly published a list of those councillors, which included the Seasalter councillor, Colin Spooner. However, and very importantly, Cllr Spooner reversed his original decision at an Overview and Scrutiny meeting on June 16th, voting against his party and in support of the market and market traders.
I have since spoken to Colin who has confirmed his support, which is very much appreciated by the market traders and everyone connected to this campaign. It is extremely important to note and accept the reasons Colin chose to reverse his decision and I therefore invited Colin to give a statement for readers of Whitstable Views which Colin has kindly done.
“My support for the market in Canterbury, and for markets in general, stems from my experience as a teenager working on my friend’s dad’s fruit and veg stall at Romford market.
“Romford Market was the hub of the town, as markets are in so many areas, particularly big cities, and the market in Romford certainly attracted people from all the surrounding areas.
“I believe this is also the case with Canterbury Market which not only serves local people but attracts visitors from this country and abroad.
“It’s true that at the first council meeting on this issue, in October 2021, I voted for Canterbury Market to be “disbanded” but this was because, at that time I understood the market could not remain during development work in St George’s Street. In all honesty, and to be perfectly transparent, at the time I voted, I misunderstood the repercussions on the market and the market traders – and I’m not ashamed to say that.
“To put things right, at a subsequent Overview and Scrutiny meeting, on 16th June this year, when issues surrounding this were fully discussed and scrutinised, my vote went, with my heart, to support the market remaining in one central location in Canterbury. In doing so, I was voting against my party but I believe it’s important to vote with your conscience as well as to admit when you’re wrong or have misunderstood something.
“I am a boy from Dagenham who lived in a council house as an only child and made my own way in the world after both my parents died at an early age so I appreciate the fact that the market issue needs careful consideration as it affects people’s livelihoods. I am very happy to put things straight for Whitstable Views.”
It is not every day that a councillor has the courage and humility to admit to having made a mistake — and then goes on to put that right. This is precisely what Cllr Colin Spooner has done and I’m sure everyone who supports a market remaining in Canterbury is extremely grateful to him for that — as am I. I sincerely hope there are other councillors brave enough to do the same — especially regarding the issue of saving Canterbury Market. In spite of the council claiming the decisions are all made and the policy a fait accompli, campaigners, including myself, can assure them we are going to continue resisting the council’s plans while insisting Canterbury City Council opens up meaningful negotiations with the market traders about an acceptable central area in which the market can continue.
It goes without saying that Colin Spooner’s name has been taken off the following list of councillors not to vote for at the next council election.
Rachel Carnac (Reculver) Barbara Flack (Blean Forest) Mark Dance (Seasalter) Georgina Glover (Sturry) Ian Stockley (Beltinge) Jeanette Stockley (Beltinge) David Thomas (Heron) Ben Fitter-Harding (Chestfield)
It’s also important to note that councillors often assume their positions on the city council with fewer than a thousand votes — they are not permanent fixtures — and neither are council leaders who can only remain leaders if they are councillors. Mr Fitter-Harding became a Chestfield councillor with only 728 votes in 2019 — and a pitiful 27.8% turnout.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Sign this petition: https://www.change.org/p/save-canterbury-market
- Share this blog article with a request for others to do the same.
- Write to your city councillor and ask them to sign the petition and to endorse community action on this and ask them to support this campaign. You can find your councillor here: https://www.canterbury.gov.uk/councillors-and-meetings/find-your-ward-parish-and-councillors/
And, as above, DON’T VOTE for the following councillors at the next election until they show support for meaningful negotiation to preserve Canterbury Market in a central location rather than scattered across the city: Rachel Carnac, Barbara Flack, Mark Dance, Georgina Glover, Ian Stockley, Jeanette Stockley, David Thomas, Ben Fitter-Harding.
- Look for more news and upcoming actions on the Whitstable Views Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/430604921349396
AND spread the word!
Colin Spooner has been a Conservative city councillor, representing Seasalter, for the last eight years and has served as both The Sheriff of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor.
In 1974, he joined the City of London Police and served at all three stations in the square mile. Four years later, looking for a bit more of excitement, he embarked on an attachment to the infamous Special Patrol Group and thereafter transferred to the Metropolitan Police Force.
On retirement Colin moved with his family to Seasalter where he purchased a rundown dog boarding kennels which he ran for ten years, turning it into a successful business.
It was one of Colin’s customers who suggested to him: “You, know, you would make a great councillor?” Colin says “When I finally stopped laughing, I sat down with that lady and the rest, as they say, is history.”
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.
SAVE CANTERBURY MARKET – VOTE AND PROTEST. Council leader turns his back on market traders and supporters – literally.
The following footage was shot by Canterbury resident, Jon Eldude of the council meeting on Monday 15th August regarding council plans to disband Canterbury Market.
3 members of the public spoke for 3 minutes each:-
Steve Bamber (Chairman of Canterbury Market Traders Association) at 55 secs in.
Julie Wassmer (Author and campaigner) straight after at 4′.27″
Lynn Tomsett (Market trader) straight after at 8’12”.
The Conservative majority voted against at 37′
A protest was then staged against that vote in the chamber at 38′.
At 42′ Conservative councillor, David Thomas, tried to call the police to evict traders and supporters.
At 44′ Council Leader, Ben Fitter-Harding turned his back on the traders and supporters and refused to engage.
No-one had any faith in this council meeting achieving anything but traders and supporters were determined to take the opportunity to have a “right to reply” to that vote – and they took it. They remain determined to fight on to retain a market area in one central location in Canterbury. Please share. Many thanks.
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