Complaints from shopkeepers in Petworth that farmers’ markets are damaging business have been dismissed by town councillors.
John Robbins told fellow members at a full meeting last week: “Any business or individual who complains about something which is of benefit to the town is a blooming bad show – the farmers’ markets should be encouraged in every way.”
And David Burden added: “When you come into Petworth it says you are about to arrive in a historic market town: what do you expect to see in a historic market town if you don’t see markets?”
Town councillors, who were told it had only been a small minority of the town’s traders who had complained, decided to take no action and wait to see the outcome of the next farmers’ market this spring.
Their discussion followed a plea from chairman of the Petworth Business Association Jackie Tudor last year who asked town councillors to support their bid to move the market from its current home in Golden Square, Damers Bridge, and part way up High Street or hold it on a Sunday instead. Mrs Tudor told town councillors last November some traders said their customers did not come to Petworth on farmers’ market days because of the road disruption, difficulty in parking and increased traffic.
“Traders say people go past their shops, focused only on going to the farmers’ market and not thinking about going into any of the shops.”
One trader claimed he lost £1,000 of trade, a second said she laid off staff on Saturday market days because business was so bad.
Another trader claimed the smell of hot food from a stall was tainting fabric in her shop.
Mrs Tudor said the issue would not go away as some members of the association had strong views on the matter. She said a Petworth Business Association survey showed 15 of those who replied were in favour of the market and did not have any major issues, four wanted it stopped completely and another nine said they wanted it moved or held on a different day.
Petworth town councillors heard last week that the stallholder causing problems with the smell of hot food had already been moved to another location on market day.