Market traders fear takeover
MARKET stall holders have spoken of their fear that their market could soon be in the hands of private owners. Worries about rent price increases were the main concerns of traders at Hitchin market when they spoke to The Comet only hours before their coun
MARKET stall holders have spoken of their fear that their market could soon be in the hands of private owners.
Worries about rent price increases were the main concerns of traders at Hitchin market when they spoke to The Comet only hours before their councillors agreed to put Hitchin and Royston markets out to tender.
The decision, made at a meeting of North Hertfordshire District Council's Cabinet on Tuesday evening, means that the council will now invite bids from interested parties to run the market.
These might include private companies or non-profit making trusts, which in a report last year the council said "would be suitable for town centre managers or market traders if they wished to operate the market themselves".
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In the same report the council earmarked six established market companies which might be interested in taking over.
Speaking on Tuesday morning, clothes stall trader Sam Singh, who has worked on the market for over 15 years, said the council is doing a good job and should remain in charge.
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Mr Singh said: "The council is fair and seems to care about the traders.
"If we get someone else in, a private company for instance, I think quite a lot of stall holders would not be impressed.
"There would be worries that rent prices would go up and we would be left in an even worse position from which some traders might not be able to cope."
Mr Singh's views were echoed by two other stall holders.
Lee Hall, who sells babies' clothes, said: "I am happy with the council at the moment.
"It might have its faults but at least we know where we stand with them. I don't want a private company coming in and being greedy."
George Owen, who runs a fruit and vegetable stall, said: "A non-profit organisation would have the best interests of the market at heart and would be more reasonable."
If the market does go into private hands it would be the second in Comet country to do so within the last 12 months. Last year the council was outbid by Wendy Fair Markets in its efforts to continue running Baldock market.
Wendy Fair Markets was one of the six companies that might be interested in running Hitchin market listed by the council