Town council says market is operating safely and within Covid-19 guidelines

Wisbech Market: Clear guidelines on which stalls can operate during the current lockdown

Wisbech Market: Clear guidelines on which stalls can operate during the current lockdown were re-iterated in a statement today by Wisbech Town Council. - Credit: Wisbech Town Council

A town council insisted today that its market traders were all operating safely and within Covid-19 guidelines.  

Wisbech Town Council issued a statement following a weekend social media storm in which it was alleged traders were breaching regulations.  

Such was the intensity of the online debate that Tina Gambell, a council official intervened.  

"I have been asked to comment in a professional capacity as liaison officer with Wisbech Town Council,” she told the 25,000 members of the Facebook forum. 

She said that the market is operating legally and repeated that message in a statement today. 

“Traders who sell a mixture of essential and non-essential goods are permitted to sell both sets of goods, providing that there is a reasonable balance in the quantities of each category,” she said. 

“In the absence of a more specific definition of ‘reasonable’, the approach being taken by the council is that no less than 50 per cent of a trader’s items for sale need to be those from the essential items list. 

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“They must also have been part of the trader’s product range as at midnight on December 25 (when the Tier 4 restrictions took effect).” 

Ms Gambell said that, for example “a trader who sells jewellery (which the Government does not deem to be an essential purchase) cannot simply begin selling also a small number of essential items (such as face masks or toilet rolls) to qualify as a trader of essential items”.  

And she said car boot sales, whatever items are being sold, do not qualify as essential retail.  

“Consequently, the council will not be operating that activity until further notice,” she said.  

“Wisbech Town Council sets up the markets ensuring that all traders adhere strictly to these regulations as prescribed by the town clerk's interpretation of government legislation. 

“Wisbech Town Council does not have any power to police members of the public who may choose to ignore government guidelines on social distancing, albeit face coverings are not mandatory in open spaces.” 

Ms Gambell said it would be “most helpful if any person wishing to air thoughts on the operation of any Wisbech Town Council asset could do so during office hours to the town council”. 

Former councillor Phil Hatton sparked the debate by questioning why the market was allowing stalls selling clothes and shoes to still be trading on the market. 

“Today there was potential customers with no masks touching all the clothes on display,” he posted. “No social distancing in place. Stall owners with no masks on. Why?” 

He said with local shops not being allowed to open, it was unfair for stalls selling non-essentials to trade. 

However, council leader Samantha Hoy said+ that the rules are being followed. And the council worked closely with both the national market traders’ federation and with local environmental health officials to ensure it operated legally.  

Ms Gambell said the stalls permitted to remain trading included those selling:  

• Food and grocery (including confectionery and any types of drink); “catering stalls” can operate on the basis of take-away only  

• Household goods (including cleaning products, sanitary products, baby products (but NOT clothing), home-wares and home furnishings)  

• Hardware supplies (including tools, DIY products, key cutting and batteries for household items)  

• Repair services (including jewellery, mobile phones and shoes)  

• Bicycles (including parts and repair services)  

• Pet supplies  

• Mobility and disability goods/services, including repairs  

• Newsagents  

• Plants (including shrubs and horticultural items but NOT cut flowers)  

• Face coverings.