STROUD District Council (SDC) has criticised the organisers of an online petition about Stroud farmers’ market who, it claims, have made incorrect statements about the situation.

In just over a week, the petition on the 38 Degrees website gained nearly 5,000 signatures.

However, SDC claims many of those who signed up had read incorrect information.

The council is currently consulting on whether it should put the award-winning Saturday market, run by Made in Stroud, “out to tender”.

Initially the petition stated: “Last November, SDC announced plans to put the farmers’ market to tender, meaning that after 14 years of the market being built up and run by local Stroud producers, the council decided to try to cash in and put it up for sale.”

SDC said this gave a false impression, pointing out that the current operator is itself a private company.

The council complained and the wording was changed to: “Stroud’s award-winning farmers’ market is under threat. We have less than one month to stop Stroud District Council from putting it out to tender.”

But by the time it was changed, around 3,000 people had signed up and these expressions of support were not removed.

An SDC spokesman said: “We accept petitions will generally use emotive language but this petition, which was set up by the son of the director of the business which currently runs the market, used wording which completely misled those who signed up to it.

“We can understand that the current business which runs the market wishes to continue to do so, however creating upset and misleading those who care about the market is unhelpful.

“We will continue to progress our discussions with all stakeholders to ensure that Stroud’s farmers’ market continues to be successful and we trust that this will allay any fears about its future.”

Ry Gerbrands, who launched the petition, said he had not purposely posted misleading wording.

“The council has been quite unfair,” he said.

“Even if 3,000 people signed the petition when the text was different, more than 1,000 people signed it after it was changed.

"The council works for us and it should listen to what people are saying. We have an outstanding award-winning market that has taken a long time to build up and we would not like to see big market operators taking it over.

“I never wanted to mislead although I believe that Made in Stroud’s 14 years of running the market should not be discarded.”