The market in Downham Market when it reopened after the first lockdown. Picture: Ian Burt

New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has this week urged “all parties to find a way forward” in the continuing market row at Downham Market.

In a statement issued on Monday, the South West Norfolk MP said she will “continue to support the people of Downham Market in ensuring the long-term future of the market”.

Her comments followed what her office said was “concerns raised by several constituents, councillors and traders in relation to the long-term sustainability of the market”.

Ms Truss has raised her concerns directly with Downham Market Town Council and West Norfolk Council.

“I am extremely keen to see a thriving market in the town. It draws visitors and residents into the town centre and benefits both businesses and the local community,” she said.

“I would urge all parties to find a way forward and will continue to support the people of Downham Market in ensuring the long-term future of the market.”

Earlier this month, a town council meeting was suspended and the police called when words were exchanged during a heated row with members of the public.

It stems back to anger over the delayed re-opening of the market following lockdown.

Last Friday, the town council released a statement saying it had “no option” but to revoke two licences after licensees “significantly breached” their terms.

In a social media post, market traders Betty and Stephen Moyses said it was with “immense sadness” their licence had been revoked.

“We have served our community through two generations: during the coldest winters and the hottest summers. We’ve made lifelong friends and consider some customers as though they are family,” they said.

Support for the market gathered pace this week; posters went up in the town with claims traders have not been able to speak out and urging residents to attend the council meeting next month.

A residents’ meeting was held on Tuesday and on the Downham Market Save Our Market Facebook page, which now has more than 1,500 members, many commented to say the meeting had been well supported.

One post said: “Fabulous turn out tonight and all feeling the same way.”

In response to the latest developments town Mayor Jenny Groom and Deputy Mayor Jackie Westrop released a statement.

It said: “We have up to 28 traders who visit the market over the two days. Some on a weekly basis, others more casually. 

“Since the Covid lockdown eased we have never refused a trader the opportunity to come to trade on the market, either as a casual user or a regular trader.  

“As a council we aim, moving forward, to expand the market, so that more of the town centre space is utilised and a greater variety of stalls can be accommodated.

“The council applies the market licence without favour to all traders and this licence is not withdrawn without careful thought. Sadly, in recent weeks we have been faced with a situation where two traders appear to have breached their licence in a significant manner on more than one occasion.

“There is now a legal process in place, which includes the traders’ right to appeal. 

“Once this process is completed all market licence holders will be invited to an informal meeting with councillors when we can all discuss positive ways forward.”