The organiser of the Artisans Market says he is “hopeful” a resolution can be found that will keep it going despite a row over increased rent.
Last week, the Mercury reported that the Artisans on Friday market, which runs in Red Lion Square in Stamford throughout the Summer, could be forced to cancel after Stamford Town Council said it was putting up the annual charge from £150 a year to £3,000.
Stamford Town Council was invited to comment on the issue on Monday, February 6, and responded with a 340-word statement on Wednesday this week.
In the statement it said: “Stamford Town Council would like to clarify what appears to be a somewhat misunderstood, indeed misrepresented, situation”.
The town council said it currently has a charging policy of £10 per stall per session for stalls categorised as arts and craft activities, which would now be applied to Artisans on Friday.
The statement added: “Clearly, the town council would be failing in its duty if it did not apply all such charges uniformly.”
It said that “growing concerns have been raised, and have become evident, regarding the expansion in numbers”.
The statement concluded: “Stamford Town Council is committed to supporting both artisans and indeed all trading in Stamford and will continue to support activities which complement existing local shops and businesses which add vibrancy and vitality in the heart of the town.”
Allan Grey, who lives in Oakham, took over the running of the market about six years ago and, last week, he told the Mercury that he was disappointed that none of the town councillors had engaged with him to find a solution.
But this week, he has spoken to a town councillor and is now hopeful of finding a resolution.
Allan said: “Artisans on Friday understand the new proposal will be put before council at the next full meeting which it is hoped will be acceptable to both Stamford Town Council and Artisans on Friday.
“Artisans on Friday hope to continue their very successful market through the Summer of 2017.”
This resolution would mean adding the £10 town council charge to the £5 stall holders currently pay – trebling their current cost. This is due to be discussed at an annual general meeting of the Artisans on Friday tonight.
He agreed that the market has grown in size from an average of 12.5 pitches in 2012 to 16.5 pitches last year but was not aware of any complaints.
Allan added: “The market has grown and it has made it more vibrant and colourful but the idea of concerns being raised – no-one has ever said that to me before and I would like to see evidence of these concerns.”
He added that the annual fee rising to £3,000 was a matter of public record and can be found on the Town Council website in the minutes of the Finance, Personnel and Assets Committee meeting dated November 15, 2016. The town council has worked this out at £10 per stall - allowing for 15 stalls operating for 20 weeks.
But Allan said last week that the market runs for 21 weeks from May to September but he budgets for at least four weeks lost due to inclement weather.
The town council statement in full:
“With regard to the feature article on page 3 of the Stamford Mercury 10th February last relating to the ‘Artisans on Friday’ stalls in Red Lion Square, Stamford Town Council would like to clarify what appears to be a somewhat misunderstood, indeed misrepresented, situation.
“The ‘Artisans on Friday’ initiative was introduced to Red Lion Square by the Stamford Chamber of Trade and Commerce. However, both Lincolnshire County Council and South Kesteven District Council found difficulties in continuing to authorize this innovative, colourful and popular commercial market.
“Rather than see it closed down, as would have been otherwise inevitable, Stamford Town Council agreed to facilitate the activity unilaterally on behalf of Stamford. However, growing concerns have been raised, and have become evident, regarding the expansion in numbers.
“The Town Council has extant an existing charging policy of £10 per unit per session for stalls categorised as Arts & Craft activities; excluding the busy Christmas Festival period. This £10 per stall is precisely what is now to be applied to ‘Artisans on Friday’. Clearly, the Town Council would be failing in its duty if it did not apply all such charges uniformly.
“From a historical perspective, in order to allow the ‘Artisans on Friday’ initiative to find its way during the difficult transition period mentioned above, prior to the Town Council taking over and when the organisers were striving to identify storage space for their ‘A’ Frames and stall tables, the Town Council supportively suggested a basic administration charge of £150 to cover insurance, highway liabilities, continuing risk assessment and liaison with LCC & SKDC. “It is a distortion and wholly erroneous to claim that ‘no-one is willing to speak’ to Allan Grey, as there has been continuous dialogue with Mr Grey, through the Town Clerk, in respect of this and other matters.
Stamford Town Council is committed to supporting both artisans and indeed all trading in Stamford and will continue to support activities which complement existing local shops and businesses which add vibrancy and vitality in the heart of the Town.”