Somerton tourism 'at threat' from new stallholder charge
Fears for the future of Somerton’s tourism trade have been raised after it was claimed local summer festivals are at risk from a new stallholder charge.
Last week the Western Gazette reported that stallholders were pulling out of the Kingsbury May Festival due to a new Traders’ Consent Licence levy imposed by South Somerset District Council.
Now Somerton Tourism and Heritage Partnership, organisers of the town’s May Fair, has reported it has only been able to secure around a quarter of the number of stalls they had last year.
Under new rules, stall holders must pay the district council £13 for a licence unless the stall has a charitable purpose.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
This is on top of a £10 pitch fee for the Somerton’s May Fair and a £20 pitch at Kingsbury Fair.
This time last year organisers had sold all 24 stall pitches for the 2012 Somerton May Fair.
But Liz Roddie, secretary for the Somerton Tourism and Heritage Partnership, said the group had so far only received interest for nine pitches and traders were putting off committing to a pitch due to the charge.
She warned that a drop in stall numbers could have a knock-on effect on tourism in the town.
She said: “The festival is all about tourism and bringing success to our town and local businesses. People always come from outside the town and while they are here they enjoy the shops and pubs. But if you compare a busy thriving fairs with 24 stalls to one in prospect with just nine, it is not going to appeal to as many people and they won’t keep coming back.
“Over the years I’ve got to know a lot of the regular stallholders, and many times they have said they have only just made back the pitch fee so they are not willing to pay another charge on top.
“They do it because they want to take part in something where the community gets together – it is really disheartening for the people who have done it year after year.”
Somerset District Council said stalls for charities or those who are raising money to put back into the village will not have to pay the fee. But organisers say the fee will hit traders who usually have hobby stalls.
Jackie Medley, chairman of the partnership, said: “It seems to me that the district council is trying to stop town and village fairs from being successful – it’s a farce.
“The only way we can get around it is to charge an entry fee, but you can’t do that on a public street.
“The whole point is for everyone to be outside enjoying it together, so we did consider calling it off completely, it’s very disappointing.”
A statement from South Somerset District Council said: “The people that are having to pay for a Traders’ Consent Licence are those commercial traders that are making a profit out of the event. We are not trying to stop genuine fundraising for the village.”