A long-running dispute over the future of Whitby’s historic market could soon be settled.
Scarborough Council will vote next week to reduce the trading times of the market to three days a week, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday, down from seven at present.
A farmer’s market will operate on Thursdays and on the other days concessions will be offered to local businesses to have café seating within Market Place.
More than 700 people signed a petition last year telling the council not to reduce the market to two days per week and to keep it as it was.
The authority’s cabinet will make a decision on Tuesday (12th) with the response to the council’s consultation on the subject revealing a deeper conflict at the heart of the issue.
Market traders have reported “bullying” and “whispering campaigns” from businesses in the area against them.
One respondent even claimed the council was “was manipulated by organised lies” to make changes to how the market operated, including appointing a new market supervisor.
On the other side, businesses told the council they thought it was “unfair” that many of the market stalls undercut shops on goods while not having to pay business rates.
Another wrote: “It’s very frustrating as a local business trying to survive in an extremely tough current economy (with business rates crippling businesses) that you then walk past the market to see them selling very much the same stuff as you without the rates [and] astronomical costs.”
People filling in the council consultation also noted that seating from cafés was eating into the market’s area.
While more than 70% of the 146 people who responded to the consultation said the market was a positive attraction to the town a better variety of stalls and an improvement in the appearance of the square was requested.
As part of the recommendations to go before the borough council’s cabinet officers will enter into discussions with Whitby Town Council about the future running of the market and also what to do with the former Town Hall, which sits within the market.
The councils will explore ways to get funding for the Grade II listed building to bring it back into active use.
The council will also look at putting up new signs to the market as well as lighting and power points.
The four concessions for cafés are being advertised online and will bring in close to £25,000 a year for the authority.