Threat to Norwich farmers' market as organiser quits

Jon WelchThe future of Norwich's farmers' market hangs in the balance after its organiser announced she was quitting.Jon Welch

The future of Norwich's farmers' market hangs in the balance after its organiser announced she was quitting.

Tracey Farrow said she was giving up in frustration at her dealings with Norwich City Council and after being left out of pocket by having to pay fees on behalf of other stallholders.

Ms Farrow said the city council refused to bill stallholders individually, instead charging a set fee of �317.25 to her as market organiser and leaving her to make up any shortfall.

She said she had also been frustrated by council-imposed cancellations to make way for the Easter French market and last month's Race For Life.

The market has been in its current location on Gentleman's Walk for about two years and was previously sited outside the Forum.

It is held on the first and third Sunday of every month but last weekend's was her last as organiser.

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'I've had to give it up because the council would not negotiate. Some weeks stallholders were not turning up and I was being left to pay the balance,' said Ms Farrow, of Norwich.

'I asked the council why stallholders could not pay individually but I was told that not everybody had a bank account, that direct debits could be cancelled and that there was no way of enforcing it on a Sunday.

'It also made it difficult when the market was cancelled because of the French market and the Race for Life because customers know you are supposed to be there on certain days.

'It was like flogging a dead horse. It's a real shame because the market has so much potential. I hope whoever takes it on can bring more people in and negotiate with the council, but I do fear for them.'

Food enthusiast Derek Hardy, who is also setting up his own barbecued ribs business, Smoke Shack, hopes to take over as market organiser.

'The market has a number of regular stallholders but hasn't really taken off. It hasn't really had a lot of publicity or support. It's a real shame; other towns and cities of a similar size have thriving markets. This one, for whatever reason, seems to be struggling,' he said.

'I would really like to rescue it. I've had a chat with a couple of traders and I'm looking to find out what's going on and what we can do to help.'

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: 'The agreement with the organiser has always been that we charge one overall fee instead of individual fees for each of the 12 stalls the site can hold.

'The reason we do this is because, by any other means, it would be administratively difficult as well as costly.

'This arrangement has always worked well so we were disappointed to receive notice of termination of the agreement for the farmers' market to continue.'

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