COLUMN: Whopping council charge rise punishes success of vibrant market

Sharrow Vale Market is one of Sheffield's many thriving community events.

Tuesday, 19th April 2016, 3:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th April 2016, 3:54 pm
Sharrow Vale Road Autumn Street Market

It brings throngs of visitors from all around to the suburb - which on a Sunday would otherwise be quiet - and most importantly supports the area’s raft of brilliant independent businesses.

Shoppers can buy it all there, from home-made cakes to Sheffield gin, and plants to paintings. The street is buzzing with exactly the kind of happy atmosphere that is needed in Sheffield.

Sharrow Vale Road Autumn Street Market

But now that might be about to come to an end.

Voluntary organisers, who give up their spare time to organise the market, have been told that Sheffield Council wants to increase the amount they have to pay for closing the road.

And not just by one, five or even ten per cent - but from £25 to a whopping £800.

Who knows how the council arrived at this figure, more than 30 times higher than what has been charged in the past?

Sharrow Vale Road Autumn Street Market

Unsurprisingly the organisers say they cannot afford this increase, stallholders will go elsewhere if costs go up and the market is in jeopardy. They argue that the council does not run the market, put up the signs, marshal the event or clean up afterwards.

This £800 seems like a hell of a lot of money to charge for what amounts to very little service.

The council says the previous fee did not cover costs. Fair enough.

They have also given organisers some time for discussions which means at least the next market can happen in July.

Sharrow Vale Road Autumn Street Market

Yet they also say the fee is to ensure the success of the ‘very busy’ event, which sounds more like a punishment for success.

One wonders if similarly popular events will fall prey to the same rise.

What is particularly galling is how much more the council willingly spends on other, less welcomed, schemes.

Such as the £43m spent by last year - and now probably higher - on buying back buildings sold off for a retail quarter that never happened.

Sharrow Vale Road Autumn Street Market

Or the £400,000 paid out to elderly people who had been overcharged for their care visits in another council blunder.

In comparison taking £800 from community volunteers smacks of emptying a child’s money box to scrape together enough cash for a bus fare.

Here’s an idea: why not use the money charged for Sharrow Vale residents to park on their pothole-ridden streets to fund the market road closures?

Because the £36 annual permit fee, and hourly parking charges, clearly aren’t going into the upkeep of the roads.