Cliftonville Farmers’ Market will not take place at The Oval Lawns ‘until further notice’ after it was cancelled by the new site owners who say they have not be provided with required documents .
The freehold for the Oval Bandstand and Lawns in Cliftonville officially transferred to GRASS Cliftonville CIC from the local authority in July.
This means the site and associated buildings are now owned and managed by the not-for-profit social enterprise organisation.
The site has also been the setting for the volunteer-led farmers market which was established by June Chadband and her late husband Keith in September 2001. Next month’s market would have marked its 20th anniversary.
But GRASS Cliftonville today said: “It is with great regret” that they have taken the “difficult decision to cancel the monthly event until further notice.”
GRASS says the problem is a lack of the required information needed to issue a market operator’s licence to organisers Cliftonville Residents Association.
A statement from GRASS says: “As a responsible organisation GRASS Cliftonville CIC requires the market operator, the Cliftonville Residents Association, to meet their statutory obligations for health and safety as required for all farmers’ markets, but to-date they have not provided the information needed to issue a market operator’s license.”
GRASS say their own events adhere to the requirements of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG), which compromises Kent Fire, Environmental Health, and Kent Police, to ensure they are safe, legal, and meet all statutory obligations.
The statement continues: “We are concerned for all the artisan stallholders and producers at the Cliftonville Farmers’ Market who will be financially impacted by the decision to cancel, so we hope the Cliftonville Residents Association can find a way forward so the event can continue at The Oval Lawns.
Stephen Darrer, Director of GRASS Cliftonville CIC, added: “It is with a profound sense of regret that we must announce the cancellation of the monthly Cliftonville Farmers’ Market at The Oval Bandstand and Lawns.
“We know this will bring huge disappointment to those who continue to support the Farmers’ Market, so we are very sad to announce this news. This is definitely not how we would wish to start our tenure as owners of this wonderful historic asset, and it’s very upsetting to everyone at GRASS to think that the market will not be taking place this month.
“However, the safety of the market’s customers and our community is of paramount importance to us, so we must insist that basic health and safety obligations are met.”
However CRA has hit back insisting they do have all the documentation required.
June Chadband, CRA co-founder, said: “ We have all the statutory information required to run a farmers’ market as governed by Kent Farmers’ Market Association (KFMA) along with most, if not all of the farmer markets, held in Kent
“They in turn are affiliated to the National Association of Farmers’ Markets and membership requires us to abide by national rules. We have public liability insurance for the market for £10 million and this also covers our volunteers.
“All our stallholders have public liability insurance and those that prepare food have a hygiene rating.
“The new landlords of the Oval Lawns have their own market operator’s licence which requires a copy of the CRA, Cliftonville Residents Association constitution, minutes of the CRA meetings, details of CRA committee members and crucially details of our bank account including the last three months of statements – proof that the market is not making a profit. “It requires me to prove to them that I am undergoing professional development which I take great exception to, having created one of Kent’s most successful markets over the 20 years and winning 9 prestigious awards along the way, six of them for Best Farmers’ Market in Kent.
“In addition we have been told not to have stallholders who sell teas, coffees, alcohol and cooked food to eat at the market. This would mean that three of our stallholders would not be allowed to attend.
“The market this year has attracted over 1,000 visitors each month with the May market having 1700 through during the morning. We have followed all strict Government guidelines.
“We gave the Gordon Road Area Street Scheme £500 towards their children’s gift boxes and £1,000 towards their solicitors fees for the asset transfer plus a letter of support from the CRA.
“We really thought that we would be able to work together, with the new landlords, and that the CRA would be able to continue with their market on its home at the Oval Lawns.
“I feel so sorry for the stallholders, who for some, farmers’ markets are their livelihood.
“I am now having to look for a new site in Cliftonville for the market and hope that all our loyal shoppers will continue to give us their support as they have done over the last nearly 20 years.”
Margate councillor Rob Yates, said: “The farmers market in Cliftonville is a great monthly event which brings Margate to life. This used to be managed by TDC as the landlord of the Oval Bandstand, who it appears let the farmers market operate without ensuring that the operator and the vendors had the required public liability insurances and food safety risk assessments.
“The new landlords, GRASS, are keen to maximise the use of the Bandstand and have already done this with the outdoor cinemas, the live bands, and recent Pride event. However, it appears they have noticed that these requirements are missing from the Farmers Market and as a community group which has just taken control of the Oval Bandstand, I fully support their decision to put the farmers market on hold until the required health and safety concerns are in place.”
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “All food businesses are required to register with the local authority in which they are based. Council officers liaised with the organisers to ensure that all of the vendors they invited were registered and had food hygiene ratings.”
This article has been updated with a response from CRA