GALLERY: Distraught Whittlesey market trader stages protest after being kicked off market square
PUBLISHED: 11:15 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:25 28 February 2014
An aggrieved market trader staged a protest today after losing a pitch she has worked on for the past two and a half years.
Valerie Brandon, of Spalding, has been kicked off Whittlesey market square by Fenland District Council after changing from being a permanent to a casual trader.
Mrs Brandon’s stall has been replaced by fruit and vegetable stall Norfolk Produce, run by Lee Martin, of Downham Market.
In a letter from FDC’s markets and events manager Mike Chapman on February 21, she was told that, following her decision to cancel her market licence, her permission to attend the square as a casual trader was “revoked with immediate effect” and the council would be “seeking a permanent replacement trader”.
Mr Chapman said that the council has a duty to provide the best possible service to customers at its markets and a licensed trader is committed to attend regularly whereas a casual trader does not have any formal commitments.
Mrs Brandon and her helpers held placards with slogans including “trader mistreated” and “Fenland fair play no way” to highlight their plight and launched a petition to drum up support.
Mrs Brandon said: “They just replaced me, They have put me out of work. I’ve had no right of reply so this is our way of making a stand. “We have been here for two and a half years, longer than anyone else on the square, yet they say we no longer are committed.
“We never even got the chance to say goodbye to our customers, who have also become our friends.
“What is going on is completely unnecessary and unfair.
“I’m old school. I understand everyone needs to make a living but there should be loyalty and camaraderie between greengrocers and market traders. I would never take another man’s living.”
Licensed traders pay £13.05 a week to have a stall while casual traders pay £19.05 each time they trade.
Mrs Brandon, who worked on the stall with her young helper Alex Mason and daughter Alexandra, fears the council’s decision will destroy her business since she only has a stall in Whittlesey.
She said: “We only had a pitch in Whittlesey so I’m not sure what we are going to do now. I may work on my father’s stall in Boston but I don’t want to be a burden on him. And what’s Alex, who has worked with me for over a year, going to do?”
Mrs Brandon received the support of several regular customers who were shocked to hear of her situation.
One customer, Ray Osborne, said: “She has given me excellent service and sold wonderful fruit so I will miss her if she does go.”
Another regular, Geoffrey Tibbles, added: “This is an outrage. It is not good enough. I will not spend any money with another market trader. I’ll get my fruit and vegetables from a shop instead.”
Mr Martin said he was justified in taking over the pitch and Ms Brandon brought it on herself by deciding to become a casual trader.
He said: “She went casual because she did not like paying her rent. When you are a casual trader, if someone is prepared to come in full time that is what happens.
“I was prepared to be full time selling fresh, local fruit and vegetables - she was not.”
His stall enjoyed a busy opening morning and won the praise of one new customer, John Hague, who said: “It is good to see such a nice stall in the town.”