Weddings and funerals, and at least two businesses, would be halted in Long Sutton if South Holland District Council shuts the main route through town for Friday markets.
Around 100 residents and traders unanimously opposed plans to close Market Place/West Street as district council chiefs defended a two-year-old “Health and Safety Report” on the 800-year-old charter market at a public meeting called by Long Sutton Parish Council.
Residents couldn’t recall any injury accidents at the market and wanted to know why the district “sat” on the report for two years if it was so concerned about people’s safety.
News of the report’s existence became public around a fortnight ago and, at Tuesday’s meeting, the district council gave residents just 10 days to make comments to the team headed by environmental services manager Emily Spicer.
Mrs Spicer told the meeting: “I appreciate it was two years ago but nevertheless we are here now and we are moving forward with this.”
She doesn’t favour the market closing but felt closing the road between 7am-3pm “is a sensible recommendation”.
At one point, the whole gathering raised their hands to “vote” against the road closure.
But Mrs Spicer then asked whether they would like to see someone hurt, back-tracking moments later with the words: “If anyone was offended by what I said, please accept my apologies because that’s not what I meant.”
District portfolio holder Coun Roger Gambba-Jones said: “At the end of the day, I don’t want to be standing in the dock – and neither does the council – when someone has seriously hurt themselves or, even worse, they may have died because of the market that South Holland District Council is putting on.”
Later Pledgers boss Graham Smith threatened legal action if the council closes the road because vehicles are in and out of his Market Place electrical business 10-15 times daily.
Mr Smith said: “Are you going to stop me trading? You stop me trading and that’s when you will go to court.”
The meeting heard undertakers F E Walton and Son also have vehicles in and out all day.
Father Jonathan Sibley said the proposed road closure would block off the front of the church, which meant weddings and funerals couldn’t go ahead on Fridays, but Mrs Spicer said the closure point could be moved to keep the access open.
Residents and councillors were worried about motorists doing U-turns on West Street or near the war memorial, making the route more dangerous, and expressed fears about 3,700 vehicles now passing through Market Place daily being transferred to Bull Lane and Swapcoat Lane, choking both.
The report came from Compass Point Business Services Ltd, which runs administrative services for South Holland and East Lindsey district councils.
Residents say it is out of date with the market auction no longer running, some stalls no longer there and businesses have either closed or changed hands.
Among its recommendations are: closing the market, moving the market to an area where no vehicles are allowed, closing Market Place/West Street, creating a one-way system and improving the market layout to stop pedestrians “meandering/jaywalking”.
Residents felt some problems, like double parking, could be overcome if the markets inspector was allowed to spend more time but Coun Gambba-Jones said he was only there long enough to collect the money.
County councillor Chris Brewis criticised a comment in the report about pedestrians crossing Market Place with their minds elsewhere.
He said: “I want to know where this amazing person is who can read people’s minds because I can’t. That’s rubbish.”
• Residents can email firstname.lastname@example.org (putting Long Sutton Market as the subject) or write to Council Offices, Priory Road, Spalding PE11 2XE.