STROUD Town Council has called for a two-year contract extension to be awarded to the current operator of the town’s award winning farmers’ market.
Last week it was revealed that the company running the market Made in Stroud Ltd had only been given a temporary six month lease, whilst Stroud District Council continues to explore the possibility of putting the business out to tender.
The decision to push ahead with a consultation, which is widely seen as a precursor to a controversial tendering process, has angered town councillors, who are now calling for a longer two-year contract extension to be agreed to safeguard the immediate future of the market.
Town councillors believe it would be more appropriate to award Made in Stroud Ltd a longer two-year contract because it would fit with the district council’s lease for the Cornhill area, which could be terminated in two year’s time under a 'break clause'.
At a full council meeting on Monday night (January 20), town councillors also called for the district council to run a transparent tendering process and to be clear about all the options on the table.
There was a public outcry last month when Stroud District Council revealed it planned to invite new bidders to take over the running of the popular Saturday market.
The lease of the current operator is due to expire in March this year but it has been extended for six months, while a planned consultation takes place with various stakeholders, including market stallholders.
A report is due to be submitted to SDC’s strategy and resources committee on February 13 setting out future options for the market, including its future tender.
Town councillors have pointed out that SDC has a ‘break clause’ to end its lease in two year’s time and they want the operator’s contract to be in sync with that timeframe so the district council has more time to consider all the options.
Cllr Eva Ward said: "As a town council we should insist on this being resolved openly. We need to know all the facts before we can make a decision."
The town council has agreed to write to the district council calling for the extension and for clarity of the tendering process.
Stroud farmers’ market hosts around 50 stalls every week and has won numerous awards, such as the Farm And Retail Market of the Year award, which it won jointly earlier this year with Surbiton in London.