A huge row has broken out in Helmsley over moves to run the weekly market on Good Friday.
For generations the historic market has switched from its usual day of Friday to Maundy Thursday as a mark of religious mark of respect for Good Friday when churches hold a Procession of Witness through the town, ending with a service in the Market Place.
But now, Ryedale District Council, which operates the market, wants it to be held on Good Friday following requests by the market traders.
The authority’s customer lead officer, Angela Jones, said: “There is a royal charter to hold a market in Helmsley each Friday.
“But it has historically been run on a Thursday rather than Good Friday because businesses did not open on Bank Holidays.”
Now, she says the market traders want to end the tradition of holding the market on Maundy Thursday instead of Good Friday because, they say, traditions have changed.
Ms Jones added: “Skipton market runs on Good Friday alongside a religious procession, with no problem.
“We have supported the procession at Helmsley each year by not charging for parking spaces and the intention is to continue to support the procession event and to work with organisers and market traders to ensure there is sufficient space for both events.
“RDC tries to be a progressive and inclusive council while supporting the local economy and we are sure the Good Friday procession and the market can be held on the same day.”
Cllr Carol Swift, Chairman of the Town Council. said feeling was running high against the move.
“We were not consulted as a town council and we are not happy about the situation,” she said.
“It has been a tradition for many years that the market is held on the Thursday of Easter Week and not Good Friday.”
She said meetings had since been held between RDC and the town authority on the issue.
But leaders of the Helmsley Churches, including the town’s Vicar, The Rev Tim Robinson, and the Helmsley in Business Group, have issued a statement, saying: “We want to express our deep unhappiness that the traditional Maundy Thursday market is being moved by RDC to Good Friday.”
They add: “We regret the lack of consultation with Helmsley Town Council, Helmsley in Business and two out of the three clergy. Good Friday is the most solemn day in the Christian year.
Now the Sunday Trading Act has turned Sunday into ‘just another day’ can we not please have one day in the year where we can take our collective foot off the consumer pedal.”
The clergy and the town council are now pressing RDC to re-think the decision.