Roadworks could force market traders out of business

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Wetherby is currently suffering three sets of works on major routes - Boston Road, St James’s Street and Spofforth Hill - and stall holders at the town’s market have said they have noticed a drop in custom.

Michelle Firth, of Hello World, who has been selling unique baby clothing from her stall at Wetherby for just over a year, said: “Last week I didn’t get enough money to cover my rent. That has never happened before.

“I noticed a difference as soon as the roadworks started. The poor weather hasn’t helped either.”

Michelle, from Otley, who used to have a shop in Ilkley but came out of retirement to set up her stall business, added: “All the markets are not like they used to be, but the roadworks are hitting trade. People need to support the markets.”

The longest serving market trader - 47 years - is Lambert’s sweets and biscuits, which is run by Paul Johnston, who took over from his brother 25 years ago.

“It has been very quiet since the roadworks started and not what it used to be. In the last few weeks takings have gone downhill.

“I fear for some of the stall holders here. I’m not sure they will survive. Customers are not coming into town as they are staying away because of the roadworks.

“Some customers have been coming for years but for a period of a few weeks during the roadworks they will go elsewhere and then may not come back at all.”

Paul added: “Markets are in a decline as they are up against the likes of Lidl, Aldi and B&M who can undercut us, so this is just adding pressure.”

Trader Kevin Good, of Cheese, Cheese, Cheese, said he has been coming to Wetherby Market for six years and also does four other markets in the region.

“Usually Wetherby is right up there with the better markets and trade is normally outstanding,” he said.

“But some of the traders are hanging in there by their fingertips and I don’t know how they will manage until the roadworks end in November.

“Some might not survive until the end of the roadworks.

“It would be nice to be offered some sort of compensation.”

Wetherby Market is operated by Wetherby Town Council which charges rents to the traders. Clerk Iona Taylor said it is aware of the difficulties being faced and is looking at different ways to help.

“One of the schemes we are looking into is a Shop Happy click and collect scheme where people can buy from individual traders online,” she said.

“Traders would leave the items, say at the council offices when they are here, and then customers can pick the goods up at a time to suit them. It has been successful in other towns but is still being developed here.”

She added: “We are looking at ways to help. It is a hard life being a market trader.

“They come very early in the morning and set up their stall and then have to pack it all away again at the end of the day. They can’t leave things out like a shopkeeper can.

“We have a lot of innovative traders out there from someone who mends vacuums to others who sell unique goods, but it is hard out there.

“Wetherby is a market town so, what would it be without a market? We need people to support them through the roadworks.”

Anne Bellerby is one shopper who does support the market and travels from Burley-in Wharfedale to shop every Thursday with her 83-year-old mother.

“We find it wonderful and my mother loves it,” she said. “The town hall staff are so helpful.”

She added: “The journey from Burley-in Wharfedale is very easy, no traffic and very scenic. We look out for the red kites and the deer.”

Annie Minister, of Wetherby, said she uses the market whenever she can.

“Wetherby Market is quite unusual in that it packs the maximum variety into the minimum number of stalls. I’m a great fan,” she said.

But Jo Jessop, of Wetherby, said: “I would love to use the market. However, as a working household it is just not possible. It would be great to see the day change to Saturday mornings - this would capture many other shoppers also.

“I currently make a journey to Leeds Market for my weekly fruit and veg shop, which is a shame as I would rather support local market stallholders.

“In addition to this it would be great to see more fresh fruit and veg stalls, I believe there is only the one chap.”

Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke added that residents had complained to him about the roadworks but urged people to back local business.

He told the News: “Residents have complained to me about Leeds City Council’s schedule of roadworks around the town and it certainly seems that more common sense could have been applied.

“Obviously the Linton Bridge should have been re-opened by now but further delays by the council has made the situation even worse.

“Nevertheless, Wetherby remains open for business and we’re all encouraging shoppers to come and visit as normal.”

Diversions are in place and anyone wishing to travel southbound from Market Place/High Street to the Boston Road roundabout will be diverted northbound along High Street – North Street - Deighton Road – up to the Deighton road roundabout - Hudson Road – Privas Way.

St James’s Street is closed to traffic for resurfacing works until September 1.

Linton Bridge is due to re-open in September.