Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Market traders lose pitches

TWO market traders who have worked in Henley for 45 years between them are being forced to give up because of major redevelopment work in the town centre.

TWO market traders who have worked in Henley for 45 years between them are being forced to give up because of major redevelopment work in the town centre.

Brian Poole and Denise Benham have stalls at the rear of Market Place Mews but will have to leave next month when the work starts. It is expected to take about 14 months to complete.

Plans to redevelop the area into 14 flats and 16,000 sq ft of retail space were approved in 2007 but there have been repeated delays.

The land used to be owned by the DeStefano Property Group, a parent company of London and Henley Properties, but last year the company went into administration and the land was sold to asset managers Catalyst Capital.

Mr Poole, 71, from Hurley, has sold reading glasses, sunglasses and watch batteries from his stall for 15 years but now plans to retire.

Mrs Benham, 61, who runs Regal Flowers and is known as “the flower lady”, has been in Henley for about 30 years.

Mr Poole, who has been a market trader for 56 years and previously worked in London, said: “We have built up an enormous customer base and people know us.

“Neither of us has been offered anywhere new. They have suggested we have got to leave by the end of August. It’s forcing me into retirement. I’ve been on to the council to see if I can go out on the Thursday market but there doesn’t seem to be enough room there. We have always understood that our part would be developed. We have known since 2007 when the plans were approved and we have been there an extra nine years.

“This is my main place to be and I do it because I like it. I enjoy the banter and serving the public in the way that I do. People who don’t even buy from me pass by and say ‘hello’. I’m part of a community if you like.

“You go to a supermarket and nobody talks to you. Everything is self-service now, which is very impersonal.

“You come to my stall and we have a laugh and a joke. It’s part of the fabric and character of society that’s going to go. Henley has become part of me. People know me and I’ve come to know them, so I’m sad in that way. I’d like to thank all my customers, I’ll miss them.”

Mrs Benham has had her pitch on Thursdays and Fridays for 16 years and before that ran her stall for 17 years outside the old Regal cinema.

Prior to that her brother David Mattingley ran the business and the family had a fruit and veg shop in the former Browns unit in Duke Street for five years and before that had a pitch in the entrance to the Argyll pub in Market Place.

Mrs Benham, who lives in Reading, said: “I’m disappointed because, to be honest, the hours we work it’s our social life.

“We know so many people out there. We get involved with weddings, funerals and charities, you name it. Our customers are like part of our family — they are lovely people. It’s very sad because we have been out there a long time.

“We did know it was going to happen one day but I can’t see the need for it personally. They are just going to bring in probably more restaurants and coffee shops and things we really don’t need in the town.”

Tamsin Borlase, another trader who sells her fresh, homegrown produce behind the mews, has been lucky enough to secure a new home.

She has been given a spot near the Regal Cinema from August 19.

Mrs Borlase, who runs the Bosley Patch market garden at Swiss Farm, said: “I passionately believe in feeding local people with local food and over the past year I’ve built an amazing core of interested, committed people who come every week to buy veg and bread.

“The numbers are still tiny, which means that it’s hard to find somewhere where ground rent makes it even an option.

“The margins and volumes, especially in the winter, mean it would be hard to justify the rent, so I am amazed and thrilled that the Regal has offered me a spot outside the cinema, effectively saving my tiny business.

“It’s a fantastic bit of community support and should be applauded.”

Mrs Borlase said she was trying to secure Mrs Benham a spot nearby, adding: “I really believe she provides a service to the town that shouldn’t be lost and I’ve seen first-hand the lovely relationships she has with her clients.”

Last week, the Henley Standard reported that an antiques and homeware shop in Market Place owned by Catalyst Capital was told to leave just three weeks after moving in.

Vintage Look took over the former Spirited Wines premises on a two-year lease with a two-month release clause, which Catalyst Capital has enacted because it says it needs the space for access and storage of building materials.

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