Council rejects 4,000-strong petition for U-turn on new market fees in Knaresborough and Ripon
A senior councillor has once again refused to U-turn on new fees for some market traders in Knaresborough and Ripon - despite being handed an almost 4,000-strong petition.
Councillor Andrew Paraskos, cabinet member for environment, waste reduction and recycling at Harrogate Borough Council, last night rejected further calls for a rethink on the new rules which mean traders are told to either set up their own stalls or pay an extra £5.
The changes were introduced in August and have been met with opposition from stallholders, local councillors and business leaders who have warned the existence of the ancient markets are being put at risk.
However, councillor Paraskos has insisted they are "going from strength to strength."
Independent Ripon councillor Pauline McHardy told a meeting the council has the worst reputation of any in the country when it comes to supporting stallholders and urged it not to ignore their pleas.
She said: "Almost 4,000 people have said this is just not right and I have to agree with them.
"It is a bad time now for everyone and the market traders are extremely important to Knaresborough and Ripon. But with putting these extra charges on it is going to force some traders not to come.
"This council needs to rethink or we are going to lose our markets."
Councillor Paraskos defended the move, saying some traders may pay less rent as they are being offered a £5 weekly reduction if they erect their own stalls.
He also said the petition gave "misleading" information about the new fees.
"Our records show that the number of traders attending the markets has been increasing," councillor Paraskos said.
"The rent - even with the £5 charge - is still equivalent to what it was three years ago. And a high percentage of traders put their own stalls up - so they are not going to be affected.
"We are where we are unfortunately. The £5 will stand because ratepayers subsided the market to the tune of £40,000 last year."
Steve Teggin, president of Knaresborough Chamber of Trade, was the one who presented the petition to the council.
He said the new fees amount to a 25% rent increase for traders who decide to pay for stall set-up and that it had become "not financially viable" for many.
Mr Teggin said: "We are concerned about how Harrogate Borough Council tends to treat Knaresborough as a whole - in particular our market. I don't think they totally recognise this ancient 700-year-old market - one of the oldest in the country - and how valuable it is.
"We are desperate that we keep this market as a traditional market and that the council change their attitude towards it."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter