Political and pressure groups will be offered a chance to set up prime
location pitches in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill town centres on
non-market days, under new proposals.

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Changes to market licence regulations mean that neither would be allowed to operate stalls within market trading spaces. However, on market days, groups could apply for street vending permission to operate at other suitable town centre locations.

The move would affect political parties as well as groups such as the Fawcett Society, if they are approved by the council’s cabinet next month. The revised market licence regulations will still allow for trading charity stalls on the markets.

Alaric Pugh, St Edmundsbury’s cabinet member for economic growth, said: “We have received complaints about political parties and pressure groups operating on our markets, and our position has been unclear.

“Previously it has been left to the market officer’s discretion to decide whether a political party or pressure group was allowed to operate on the market, which if left unchecked, could have left us open to accusations of inconsistency or even bias.

“At the same time, we recognise that our market stall holders are businesses, there to trade, rather than to promote ideologies. There is a view that having political parties or pressure groups running stalls alongside market stalls may be off-putting to customers.”

As part of a review of market licence regulations, the local authority is seeking to clarify its position by moving all political parties – whatever their persuasion – as well as pressure groups away from the markets, which are being developed with more traders and events.

Mr Pugh added: “We are absolutely not putting a stranglehold on democracy or freedom of speech. There has been a lot of confusion in what has been reported about these proposed new regulations. There is a time and a place for everything and the most workable solution is for these parties and groups to operate at locations that long experience has identified as being good for the dissemination of information.”

The proposals will be discussed on September 2.

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