A Ramsgate town centre trader has launched a petition calling for the return of the weekly Friday market.
Jim Brady, who runs Heaven and Hell gift shop, says the Friday market is a vital part of the town, bringing people on to the high street.
The town market shut when covid restrictions were brought in during March 2020. It briefly reopened in June of that year but issues around placement meant the market closed again. A new site proposed for Pier Yard car park on the seafront was scuppered at the 11th hour.
Traders were then given the go-ahead to use Staffordshire Street car park, taking space in several disabled parking bays. But there was a drop in traders taking part on Fridays and none willing to set up for business at the site on Saturdays.
The low number of stalls meant falling income, with then-operator Hughmark making a decision to cease trade in the town.
In October 2020 Thanet council said there were plans to create a new Canterbury style format with gazebos and themed days and the market contract would go out to tender.
But there has been no return of the market since that date.
A soft marketing exercise in January of this year received one expression of interest from Ramsgate Town Council but the authority has not received a response.
In June this year Thanet council Cabinet members agreed to remove Street Trading and Hawking restrictions on the High Street, King Street and Queen Street, to facilitate an outdoor market and to put market operator services out to tender for a weekly (subject to planning permission) or monthly outdoor market in the town centre. That tender process does not yet appear to have gone live.
Thanet council said two potential locations were identified as suitable for a market: Ramsgate High Street and/or Westcliff Promenade Green.
The council aims to charge a fee of £250 per market, meaning an annual income of between £3,000 to £13,000 depending on whether markets are held monthly or weekly.
Jim, who has traded in the town for some 15 years via the market, his former shop in Harbour Street and new premises in the High Street, says it is time to get the market back – ideally with Ramsgate Town Council running it.
He said: “I’m collecting signatures at the moment until the end of October to present to the council as a way of showing them how important the market was to the town – not only economically but also as a vital community hub.
“ A lot of my customers have stated they used to come to the market, meet up and have a coffee with family and friends and this has been taken away from them. Last I heard was that Thanet council wanted the market out of town which would not work or benefit either traders or public.
“The market needs to be back in the high street.”
Jim says ideally Ramsgate Town Council could run it with their town technicians with profit from the stalls then going back in to the town to run services such a cleaning and reopening the Cavendish Street public toilets.
Jim has paper petitions in his shop at 30 High Street and also at the Sunrise Café, 15 York Street.
Ramsgate town and district councillor Helen Crittenden says she has made enquiries about the current situation for the market and understands a new Thanet council officer is ‘progressing’ plans. She has also lodged questions over when the council will be advertising for market operators.
Ramsgate’s most thriving market was held on the grounds of Dumpton greyhound stadium during the 60s-90s and would attract coachloads of customers from Kent and London.
Dumpton Park Stadium, which opened for greyhound racing in 1928 closed down in 1996 after the owners went into receivership. The stadium was demolished in 2001 and the site is now housing.
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “We are working to put the procurement process in place to identify a new operator for Ramsgate Market. The opportunity will be advertised on Contract Finder and the Kent Business Portal in due course.”