Urgent action needed to save Wednesday Market in Sevenoaks – stalls may disappear completely by New Year claim traders
The historic Wednesday Market in Sevenoaks will probably cease in January if action is not taken to save it, claims some of the traders who use the site.
Many older Sevenoaks residents will remember the thriving Wednesday Market and Monday livestock market held opposite Sevenoaks Station until 1999 on the site now occupied by the office building One 60 London Road.
The Wednesday market moved to the car park behind Sevenoaks Bus Station, but the number of traders who take pitches has declined over the last few years down to about four or five stallholders.
The traders are hoping the market can be moved to a new site and are being supported by Tony Clayton who is a District Councillor and Town Councillor. He said: “The market has been hit by the closure of Sevenoaks High Street Tesco, and for most of last year the loss of the main town centre car park. The surviving traders have said that the footfall now doesn’t allow them to make a profit, and if something isn’t done by Christmas they can’t carry on.”
Mr Clayton added that the Sevenoaks Saturday market, held in the High Street, outside the Chequers pub, by contrast, is doing well.
He said: “It works because of the footfall from all the other shops, and the market generates more customers for the High Street too. So, the Wednesday market traders have been pressing for almost a year to move their stalls to the High Street.”
Sevenoaks Town Council, which operates the market, has backed the call from the Wednesday traders, but Sevenoaks District Council, which controls the site, and the conditions under which the markets work, says moving the Wednesday market is not that simple.
A District Council spokesman said: “Following a competitive tender process, Sevenoaks Town Council won the contract to run the Wednesday and Saturday markets and began operation in April 2018.
“We have worked with the Town Council to look at solutions to the current issues, but the operation and promotion of the markets ultimately sits with them. We certainly share the concerns of residents and market traders and will continue to be open to suggestions from the Town Council as to how they plan to revitalise the Wednesday market and what actions they are proposing to put in place.
“One suggestion that has come forward is to allow the operator to move the Wednesday market to the location of the Saturday market. If we were to take forward this suggestion, we would have the retender the contract or potentially face legal challenges from the other operators who were unsuccessful in their bids to run the markets.”
But Mr Clayton and the stallholders remain frustrated by the lack of action. He claims the District Council first said the market charter didn’t permit the move – then had to admit there isn’t a charter. He says the District Council then claimed that EU contract rules stopped it changing the location, before local lawyers proved this is not the case.
He said: “If nothing is done, the Wednesday market will probably die by January. The traders would like to make a case for bringing the Wednesday market into the High Street and working with the retailers there, but don’t believe Sevenoaks District Council understands the situation.”
- Do you remember the old Sevenoaks Market? Look out for future stories on the history and the background to the current situation on My Sevenoaks Community.