'Save The Market' campaign launched by furious Northampton trader over plan to move stalls for up to two years
'It's ridiculous, they are trying to kill the market off and they are doing a good job of it as it is'
'Save The Market' has been started by long-serving fruit and veg seller Eamonn 'Fitzy' Fitzpatrick after West Northamptonshire Council revealed its plan last week.
The local authority wants Market Square empty while the £8.4 million, government-funded project designed to make it more attractive is completed.
Fitzy told the Chronicle & Echo: "Me and my fellow market traders are absolutely devastated. I have been trading there for 58 years and two years is a long while to move anyone off.
"It's ridiculous, they are trying to kill the market off and they are doing a good job of it as it is. I'm one of the busiest independent retailers in the town centre and they are trying to ruin it.
"We have got to make them see sense, I will do my best to do that - the fight is on."
Work is expected to start next year on the council's Market Square project, with a target completion date of March 31, 2024, but no precise date has been given for when the traders will be moved.
Plans were approved earlier this year for improved landscaping, seating, a large-scale water feature and new and better lighting to make Market Square more attractive.
But officials say it will be impractical to keep the current market where it is while work is being carried out, so the stalls will have to go elsewhere, with alternatives being considered.
Fitzy said the old Debenhams and BHS stores have been suggested, as well as a site in Sixfields, but he believes all would have a hugely detrimental effect on their business.
The market trader added that moving the stalls to Abington Street was ruled out as it is too busy, despite the German market and fair previously going there.
He said: "They think putting a few paving slabs in will bring the town back to life - they know nothing about retail. What about the other shops around the square?
"I'm all for change for the good but listen to the traders. They need to do it in stages and that's what they did before but they've not thought about it.
"They want it done straight away and quicker but it was done before in sections and there was no problem whatsoever."
Fitzy said it felt like a 'kick in the teeth' when he found out about the plan to move the market traders after the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic and years of town centre decline.
The market trader says he has written to the council to complain and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the government funds 'were not to put them out of business'.
He said his staff are concerned about what will happen to them if he cannot afford them anymore, with little clarity from the local authority so far.
"The market is the last bit of Northampton that they [the council] haven't ruined, I know it's declining and has seen better days but if they kill off the market, they're going to kill off the town centre," he said.