A furious trader has hit out after being “booted off” Lutterworth Market.
Elaine Wakelam, 51, said she’s “devastated” after being ordered to leave the town’s ancient town centre mart for parking her van by her stall.
But Cllr Geraldine Robinson, who runs the weekly Thursday market, has insisted that she “bent over backwards” to help her – and said she’s only got herself to blame.
Elaine, of Cosby, told the Harborough Mail: “I’m very sad that I’m being kicked out of Lutterworth Market.
“I’ve been standing there since May 2019 – and I’ve loved every minute.
“I’ve built up a loyal army of customers and the camaraderie among fellow traders and shoppers has been brilliant,” said Elaine, who also goes to weekly markets at Oakham and Uppingham.
“Then out of the blue in June I got a letter from Lutterworth Town Estates Charity, which operates the market, warning me I must move my van due to ‘health and safety, insurance and legal reasons’.
“I’ve always put it there in a free parking spot and it wasn’t doing any harm to anyone or posing any danger.
“Other traders do the same but they didn’t get a warning,” said the furious mum-of-two, who’s battling skin cancer.
“I have requested a copy of either their health and safety policy and/or risk assessment which covers the market.
“But I’ve not been provided with either.
“I run an eco-friendly business called A Simpler Life as I do my bit to help save our planet.
“I’ve enabled my customers at Lutterworth to save over 10,000 items of single use plastic food packaging, plastic bottles, etc, from going to landfill over the last two years.
“I continued to operate my pitch throughout the Covid pandemic lockdowns.
“And I’ve stood in all weathers – pouring rain, freezing snow and hot sunshine – to serve my customers and make ends meet.
“All I want is to be treated like every other trader at Lutterworth Market – fairly and squarely.
“I’ve spoken to Geraldine Robinson time and again in an effort to iron this out and find a solution.
“Lutterworth’s proud market goes back many hundreds of years.
“But it’s struggling now with just nine or 10 stalls – and it needs all the help it can get,” said Elaine.
“I’d have loved to carry on and carry on serving my fantastic band of supporters.
“But I set up my stand there for the last time on Thursday (September 30) and I’ve been banned from going back.
“It’s a crying shame and I’ve been left very angry and very upset by the whole shocking episode.”
But Cllr Robinson, chairman of Lutterworth Town Estate Charity, told the Mail today: “We have given Elaine Wakelam every possible chance and bent over backwards to help her.
“Our rules state that traders cannot park their vehicles by their stalls on our tiny market square.
“It’s as simple as that.
“There is hardly any space and moving vehicles pose a health and safety hazard.
“I’ve asked her numerous times to move her vehicle but she didn’t,” said Cllr Robinson, a Harborough district councillor.
“We’re not picking on her or singling her out – no one else parks their van by their pitch.
“Elaine Wakelam has brought this upon herself.
“She asked me once for our health and safety policy and I told her that she could see it in our office.
“I’ve run this market voluntarily for 25 years.
“And I’ve never had an issue like this before in all that time.
“I am sorry to see her go, it’s very disappointing.
“I’m stunned that she’s giving up her pitch at Lutterworth Market,” added Cllr Robinson, a Conservative councillor for Lutterworth West ward.
“But we’ve done everything we can to help persuade her to stay with us by doing the right thing and it’s not just worked out.”