Campaigners fighting a decision to place all Leighton Buzzard’s market stalls on one side of the High Steet will be out in force again tomorrow (Tuesday) aiming to add names to the 1,143 signature-strong petition opposing the move.
On Saturday, the Leighton Buzzard Market Supporters (LBMS) group was out on the market getting the public to put pen to paper in support of their protest against the new layout, which is being introduced by Leighton-Linslade Town Council in mid-August.
Last week the LBO reported how long-established market traders were threatening to quit, while others fear for their future livelihoods over the changes.
However Leighton-Linslade Town Council say the relaunch, following a £12,000 consultant’s report by The Retail Group, has been well researched and is being introduced to tackle decline.
They insist the move is aimed at making the market work for all traders and have pledged to have one-to-one conversations with individuals to iron out concerns.
The council say the current layout looks loose, untidy and with no critical mass.
But stallholders with decades of experience in Leighton Buzzard, say they simply can’t operate from the Boots side of the street where stalls are in the sun more and their fresh produce will be ruined by higher temperatures.
LBMS held a meeting after Saturday’s market and vowed not to go forward with the council’s one-to-one discussions.
Spokesman for the group, David Overton: “LBMS maintain that we will only engage as a group with the town council.
“We are a further support group to the formal market traders group who have arranged their next meet on July 13, with the next Market Sub-Committee [of the town council] on August 10. Both of these will be too late for LBMS to help the council with their decision.
“We request engagement with the town council in this week, commencing June 26.
“We must work on the solutions together. The need to remain on both sides of the High Street is our main objective.”
“We understand that a full plan exists for the positioning of individual stalls. Only a few traders have seen the plan – LBMS request sight of the stall plan under request for transparency in this process, so that we may help with redesign back to two sides of the High Street.
“LBMS would like to thank Leighton Buzzard Market shoppers for all of your support to help the town council adjust their decision to move all traders to one side of the High Street and to leave it on two sides.”
Mr Overton said the group had been told by a town council officer over the weekend that the authority would read and consider all information it had been handed in the past week by LBMS.
But the town council told the LBO last week that there would be no U-turn, akin to the recent decision to move the three-day Christmas Festival to just Sunday which was overturned at full council.
The spokesman challenged how many of the stallholders were actually against the changes, adding: “There is a vocal group of traders but there will have to be some one-to-one discussion with them.
“We have challenged, changed and adapted the findings of the report before we went to consultation.
“The decision has been made and the council is committed to it. All we are wanting to do now is to have those conversations with traders on a one-to-one basis.
“We need the market to succeed, we have our loyal customer base.”
> See the LBO June 27 for lots of letters on the market issue.