WHITCHURCH Town Council has defended its decision to close the town’s Friday Market during the latest coronavirus lockdown.

The market was shut with the new lockdown from January 4, as it had been during last year’s full UK lockdown.

A spokesman for the town council said that the decision to close the market was not ‘final’ and it would be reviewed, after one user complained it was unnecessary.

The spokesman said: “Because of the alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, and more than 1,000 daily deaths this week, the decision was taken by senior management to temporarily close Whitchurch Friday Market, after the third national lockdown in England was announced on Monday, January 4.

“When the first lockdown began in March 2020 the Market was closed until June, it then returned on a limited basis on the rear car park at the Civic Centre.

“During the November firebreak lockdown when schools and colleges remained open, the market was once again moved outside for food and essential traders only.

“The town council has followed the same procedure for this full lockdown as it did in March last year by closing the Market to help stop to the spread. “We have been surprised by the public’s reaction to this, especially considering that the new strain of the virus is a lot worse and up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

“This is by no means a final decision and we will be reviewing the situation on a weekly basis.

“Once cases start to go down in the area and we have passed the Christmas peak we hope to be able to reopen the market safely by at the end of January. Hopefully our elderly and vulnerable customers will soon be vaccinated.”

Despite this, the public reaction has been negative, with many taking to social media to air their frustration.

Helen Pike wrote to Herald to say say she was ‘disappointed but not surprised’ with the decision.

She said: “Covid secure arrangements operated well in the car park to the rear of the Civic Centre previously and could do so again.

"Other towns have not found it necessary to close and I can only assume a sluggish complacency exists in the bureaucracy of Whitchurch Town Council preventing positive support for the town, its residents and retailers.”

But some traders themselves have supported the town council’s decision.

Tony Kemp, a fishmonger and regular fixture at the Friday Market, said the council faced a ‘bad situation’ and backed the closure.

“If crowds do gather and someone has Covid it does make them look bad,” said Tony. “The other situation is holding it outside, with the government saying that oputdoor markets can go ahead. I feel sorry for the people of the actual market.”

“I’d love to be able to come out and my customers stand a good distance away from me, we’ve got all the facilities there to do it.

“What I think [the council] look at, if we get a few people waiting the people waiting start to get a queue of people it’s hard to keep them apart.

“There’s nothing more I’d love to do than work my market, but we’re in a such a bad time at the moment that the council are worried.

“For me personally I do a door to door service so I’m still working, but I’d love to be doing my market.”