Threat of £500 fine for Leighton Buzzard traders who ignore market cancellation

Credit: Jane Russell.
Credit: Jane Russell.

Traders who carry on working in windy weather on days when the town market has been cancelled for health and safety reasons have been threatened with a fine of up to £500.

Around five stalls were spotted still trading on Saturday, March 16, after high winds forced Leighton-Linslade Town Council to cancel the market.

But stallholders say that although “impractical” gazebos may not be safe in the wind, they can continue trading on tables and from trailers in order to sell their goods – many of which are perishable.

Kevin Morgan Jones runs a stall at the farmers’ market. He said: “I think the cancellation policy definitely needs to be urgently reviewed. I’m not happy about the threat of a fine, I think it’s unnecessary.

“Although I understand the health and safety issue – some of this has been brought about by the very pretty but impractical gazebos. The old stalls were much more stable.

“Traders like myself are unaffected by the weather and we’re competing with supermarkets, who are there come rain or shine. Common sense dictates how we should react to the weather ... those of use who have been trading 20 years or more know when the weather is too bad.”

A town council spokesman said that its market cancellation policy was already under review, and told the LBO that a series of workshops will explore “other imaginative options” to keep the market open where possible.

He stated: “In the meantime and to try and avoid the situation where traders continue to trade with impunity despite the market being officially closed, the town council has been forced to carefully consider more drastic measures that include a fine for example. Let’s not forget, the health and wellbeing of our residents and visitors prevails and if our action is putting people at risk, then we need to be addressing this in the most appropriate fashion.

“The town council has made itself clear that as the position of very last resort, it is considering fining those traders who continually flout health and safety regulations and continue trading when the market has been closed.

“The issue rests with insurance cover when the town council as market operator deems the weather too dangerous to operate and closes the market. In this case, the insurance cover of both the market operator as well as the market traders themselves is void putting both the market trader and the public at risk should an incident arise.

“We take the decision to close the market very seriously and it is based on both our own experience as well as Met Office weather forecasts. Gusts of wind in excess of 40mph cause damage and will basically mean the market is closed.

“The High Street by virtue of its design and orientation acts like a funnel with high winds tending to be channelled down its entire length. In terms of the market operation, we try and give as much notice as possible recognising that some traders who purchase perishable goods need to know as soon as practicable.

“All our traders are aware that we use the Met Office weather forecast as the benchmark against which a decision is taken and we urge them as traders to heed the weather warnings issued by the Met Office. If gusts a predicted to be in excess of 40mph, then there is every likelihood that the market will have to close in accordance with the endorsed town council cancellation policy.

“However, what we cannot allow is the flagrant disregard of council policy which puts both individuals and property at risk when a market has been cancelled. Irrespective of the market structures, if the weather makes erecting, dismantling or trading from structures a risk then there is every legitimate reason to cancel the market.

“The town council has been consistent in its position which sadly is not the case with certain traders who will decide on the day whether they wish to trade irrespective of the town council’s position on the matter. The lack of consistency from the market traders does little for market shopper confidence either.”