A protest march due to take place at Saturday’s relaunch of Leighton Buzzard market has now been cancelled.
The demonstration, against changes to the market by Leighton-Linslade Town Council, had been scheduled for 10am at the Market Cross.
It had been organised by Leighton Buzzard Market Supporters group as part of its Save Our Market campaign.
The campaigners are angered by rent increases of up to £6,200 per year traders claim they are facing as the council begins to charge for depth and not just stall frontage.
A number of stall holders have claimed they won’t be able to stay in business after Leighton-Linslade Town Council decided to standardise pitch sizes and fees, introduce a new layout, and clamp down on businesses who have historically expanded their pitch size – but not paid for the privilege.
While the council says this will make matters fairer for all and increases will be staggered, long-standing traders have said they had negotiated their own price many years ago – and the resultant hike will be too great to absorb.
Today however, just two days ahead of the relaunch, Karen Young, of Turner’s Nurseries flower stall, revealed the demonstration had been called off as “the town council had promised to reconsider rents and pitch size” after meeting with her on Tuesday afternoon.
She said: “At the meeting we asked them about rent increases and said we will back down with the protest if you review the rent. We asked for a loyalty discount and a discount for those who have more than one pitch. They agreed that they were open to discussion over the next six months. I think they have backed down because of the march.”
Karen said she was hopeful the debate on stall sizes would be resolved in the near future too. On Saturday she will set up her flower stall at the new maximum permitted width of 29.3ft wide, where previously she had 50ft. She said she “couldn’t get her head around” how she would do that.
She added: “All in all what we have asked for over the last three months we will have achieved. If they had listened to us at the beginning, none of this would have happened. I hope people come along on Saturday and support the market.”
Instead of the demonstration, market supporters will now hold a public consultation from 10am at the Market Cross seeking views on the changes to the market.
In a newsletter to traders this week, the council stated: “During the coming months we want to hear your opinion on market rent and encourage your views on the way we reward loyalty and long service to the market.”
Last month the LBO reported how the profit of Leighton Buzzard’s market continues to plummet for the third year running with a net loss of over £22,000.
The town council, who say the current layout looks loose, untidy and with no critical mass, commissioned agents The Retail Group to carry out an analysis of the market. Their report stated it was “underwhelming” and led to the controversial relaunch plan.