Public meeting amid fears for centuries-old Skibbereen market

A public meeting is being held tomorrow night, amid fears for the future of a farmers’ market in West Cork which, according to its organisers, can be traced back nearly four centuries.

The long-term future of Skibbereen Farmers’ Market may be in doubt due to plans by Cork County Council to implement new casual-trading bylaws.

Madeleine McKeever, one of the organisers of a public meeting, said there are local fears the proposed regulations may compromise traders’ public right to trade, and act as a disincentive.

Supporters of the market claimed trading rights have existed in the town since Skibbereen received a charter from Charles I in 1669.

However, the market area, the Fairfield site in the heart of the town, had, in the 19th century, been gifted to locals, by the Salter Townsend family, as a public area.

Traders and supporters of the market said new regulations could pose a threat to its continuing success.

Up to 2002, the Saturday morning market had been in decline for some time, but it experienced a resurgence when the Growing Awareness food and farming group became interested in running it.

It is now thriving, peaking at 100 stalls in the summer. It runs once a week, from about 9am until early afternoon.

“It has been very successful,” said Ms McKeever.

However, she highlighted local fears about the market’s future. “For example, the county council has not said how much it will cost to trade under the new system.

“We also believe there may be complicated application forms for traders to fill in and that the council may have the right to refuse a licence to some people, and we don’t know the criteria that they will use to determine who gets trader status.

“We are also afraid that the local authority may be planning to bring in a management company to run the market and this may increase the costs to traders.

“We are having a public meeting about it,” she said, adding that the current management team did a “good job” of running the market.

The meeting takes place at 8pm in the West Cork Hotel.

The council had prepared to introduce bylaws 20 years ago, but the plan was held up in the courts, following an objection in Bantry, which was resolved. Many councillors had also complained that casual trading had gotten “out of control” and that bylaws were needed to designate specific areas in towns and to make traders responsible for cleaning up after their work.


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