Shake-up for street markets: fee hike worries town’s traders

New rules proposing to change the way street markets are run have met with a mixed response from stallholders.

Traders welcomed cuts in the paperwork and bureaucracy, but criticised a hike in stallholder’s fees and a decision to block food stalls from trading.

Anton Burton, who organises the St Leonards Marketplace, helped draft proposals that were unanimously voted through by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) cabinet on Monday (October 6).

“There was a problem organising markets within the current policy,” he said. “This is a good step in the right direction, but it needs more consultation. We must keep markets affordable for traders.”

Street markets have thrived in the borough over the last five years, with regular trading on the Stade Open Space, in Hastings Town Centre, and in St Leonards.

Growing numbers of stalls has left HBC struggling to manage street trading (one stallholder was recently found selling knives) and forced a review of the current policy.

The new rules, which will be considered by full council on 22 October, include tougher measures around how stalls look and what they sell.

Town centre manager Rob Woods, of the Lets Do Business Group, said that he knew of complaints about scruffy stalls in the Hastings Town Centre Market.

“Part of this exercise is to provide a better looking market,” he said. “To tidy it up a bit so businesses don’t sprawl out. The general feeling is that the market does a good job in terms of being an attraction on a Thursday and a place where start-up businesses can put themselves on the ladder.”

Three local businesses that started on the Town Centre market - 1066 Cake Stand, Bookbuster, and Sparklers Body Jewellery - have gone on to open shops in the town.

Jonathan Dolding, Hastings Chamber of Commerce manager, echoed Mr Woods’ comments:“we see street markets as a good opportunity to create a vibrant town.”

But traders are unhappy with a hike in the fees for local stallholders, from £5 each day per stall to £15 per day.

Chris Connelley, chairman of the Central St Leonards Town Team, welcomed most changes but said he was “concerned” by the higher charges, and criticised HBC’s decision to block food stalls.

“There’s strong evidence that food stalls are the anchor for highly successful markets,” said Chris. The town team were “surprised” by that decision but “supportive of the broad thrust”.

HBC cllr Andrew Cartwright, lead member for licensing, said the policy would encourage markets, while, “enhancing and brightening the environment and adding some character.

“[Markets] attract more people into the area, benefitting other businesses in the area too, and providing yet another reason for visitors to come to Hastings.”

A Winter Frost Fair marketplace event is set for November 29 in King’s Road.