Labour’s York Central MP Rachael Maskell and Guildhall councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick have written a joint letter to City of York Council and Make It York urging a compromise over a new ruling that may see stalls in the Shambles Market close over Christmas.
In a recent rule change, Make It York have banned vehicle access to the market until 8pm Thursday through Saturday while the Christmas Markets are occupying Parliament Street. The result is that market traders will not be able to remove their goods until these times, and cannot leave their stalls unattended for fear of theft. Many traders arrive on site as early as 5.45am, meaning some begin their working day as early as 4.30am collecting goods for sale. As a result, a large number of traders will be left working 15 and 16 hour days by this ruling.
Rachael said: “Shambles Market is an important and well-loved part of our city and many local people have been shocked to hear how our very hardworking traders are being treated.
“Not only will these changes force traders to work extremely long hours often in freezing conditions, they also pose huge problems for traders with children who will face a loss of income unless they can find additional childcare on Friday and Saturday evenings in the run up to Christmas.
“Make It York as an organisation is there to support and nurture our business community and it is extremely important to everyone that it is doing all they can to support this vital group of small York businesses.
“I am hopeful that Make It York and the council will now urgently work together and confirm new arrangements that will ensure the livelihoods and well-being of these small business owners are protected, as has happened in previous years.”
Some traders have said that the ruling has meant they will be unable to open their stalls over the period, which is often one of the most lucrative times of the year. The traders have offered a compromise where some will remain open until 6pm by offering a staggered system where different traders clear their stalls at different times, but this has been rejected, despite support from North Yorkshire Police and council transport professionals.
Cllr Fitzpatrick said: “I’ve been really disappointed in the lack of flexibility from Make it York on this matter, who have so far railroaded this decision through without any concern for the permanent traders who occupy Shambles market all year round.
“These current plans from Make it York for managing the highly lucrative Christmas market look set to pit the interests of out of town businesses coming into York for the seasonal Parliament Street market, against those who occupy Shambles market all year round.
“People are concerned that valued, local stall holders who work in York week in and week out, are having their lives made so difficult.
“So far the council have taken no action since this issue raised its head. It’s imperative that the council acknowledges the value of our market traders and responds accordingly to this issue by working with Make it York to change this situation before it’s too late.”
In response, Make It York, who are a limited company whose shares are wholly owned by City of York Council, have stated that they “understand the concerns” of market traders, but have refused to make any changes to their ruling.