20th November 2018
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Council’s roads department asked to rethink hefty market stall fees

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A plea will be made to the council’s roads department in the hope that a near doubling of fees for market stalls imposed three years ago might be re-examined.

It comes after Lerwick Community Council was notified by Living Lerwick of an “unworkable” hike in the hire costs.

However, the head of the council’s roads department says the increase was only made to cover its own costs.

The organisation which aims to promote the town centre, Living Lerwick, says plans it had to feature stalls on Harrison Square have failed to materialise because of the price increase.

In a letter to community councillors, business improvement district (Bid) manager Christena Irvine said: “The markets were designed to be cost neutral to Living Lerwick as it is not fair to expect members who have to pay for their premises all year round to subsidise people to trade from market stalls on only the busiest days.

“The hire fee from the pop-up stalls was originally £30 per stall.

“Since the initial markets, the SIC roads department introduced an unexpected new charge for occupying the space, which pretty much doubles our costs.

“This makes the whole thing unworkable as nobody is going to pay £60 to hire a stall for a day.

“We have not offered market stalls since this happened in 2014, so there are no uptake figures.

“SIC roads were made aware that these costs killed the street market project, but they are sticking with it.

“We could not continue with the project if we cannot justify funding the difference between what the reality is and what people may expect to pay using our members’ money.”

Speaking at Monday night’s community council meeting, Averil Simpson said the roads department had put up the price and were unwilling to do anything about it.

Karen Fraser added: “It does seem a bit of a shame. It’s an area not being used as much as it could be.”

Chairman Jim Anderson said a letter should be sent to the roads department to see if there was anything which could be done to make the stalls more affordable.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Irvine said the increased charges “made it impossible for us to
do it”.

She said the whole idea of having stalls was to encourage small businesses, or people running small enterprises as a hobby, so that “it wasn’t cost-prohibitive”.

“It was £30 for a day but when the price doubled that couldn’t work.”

However, roads manager Dave Coupe said there was no wriggle room on the fees.

“It’s very simple. There is a statutory process that we have to go through. What that charge does, which is in line with all other authorities, is cover the cost of doing that,” he said.

“Otherwise, the council would be seen to be subsidising some individual businesses and, in fact, some south businesses.

“It is a cost that was introduced and approved by the members to cover the cost of the administration of doing that.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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