'We're finished' say Blakeney Quay stallholders
Two much-loved stall holders who have spent a combined total of 47 years selling food to visitors to a north Norfolk quay are set to shut up shop.Customers of Christine Overton's and Duncan Groom's caravan-based businesses on Blakeney Quay have expressed their sadness after the owners were told they had lost tenders for the sites which they have occupied for so long.
Two much-loved stall holders who have spent a combined total of 47 years selling food to visitors to a north Norfolk quay are set to shut up shop.
Customers of Christine Overton's and Duncan Groom's caravan-based businesses on Blakeney Quay have expressed their sadness after the owners were told they had lost tenders for the sites which they have occupied for so long.
Every few years, Blakeney Parish Council asks businesses to submit tenders for the three sites on the car park.
But both Ms Overton and Mr Groom failed in the latest rounds of bids - meaning they will not be allowed to trade on the site when the tourist season begins again next Easter.
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Ms Overton has run her caravan caf� on the quay car park for the last 19 summers. She employs nine people, including her partner, and relies on the business as her family's sole source of income for the whole year.
The owner, who counts chef Galton Blackiston and MP Norman Lamb among her customers, said: 'This is my livelihood, and my partner's. We can't afford to stop working yet.
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'I'm really scared for my employees. They're locals, students, who are here every day through the summer, on weekends and holidays. What are they going to do?'
Sarah Blunden, who lives near Holt and regularly comes to Blakeney to walk and have a snack at 'Christine's caravan', said: 'She's a Blakeney institution - selling really nice stuff. We come here for her.'
Priscilla Short, a regular customer from Blakeney said: 'We're gutted. My son, who's 11, burst into tears when we found out. It's such a lovely meeting place.'
Mr Groom has run his seafood stall from the quay for 28 years. He said the four local youths he employed, as well as his suppliers, would lose out when he left.
Blakeney Parish Council released an official statement, saying: 'When making any decision the parish council has to balance the interests of the individuals concerned against those of the parish as a whole, taking into account that we try to obtain best value at all times for the benefit of the village as a whole.
'Each time the tenders come to an end they are advertised. Work carried out on behalf of the parish is also, wherever possible, put to tender or quotations sought.
'Before tender documents were sent out the existing holders were given the opportunity to comment on the draft terms of the contracts. Their comments were helpful, were taken into account, and many changes were made to the terms to make them more attractive.
'The existing site holders were free to tender for the years 2010 to 2013 and, indeed. All three did so, as did many others in the locality. There was no obstacle to any of them submitting the best tender for any of the sites.'
It added that income from the Carnser car park and the trading sites had enabled the council to buy the Pastures Land for the benefit of the village, to rebuild the lower quay, extend the footpath along Langham Road, extend the free car park at the village hall, create a children's play area and carry out 'many other improvement in the village'.
It ended by saying: 'The parish council hopes, in the near future, to use this income to assist in the provision of affordable housing, which is indeed the main topic of this year's annual parish meeting.'
WHAT do you think about the demise of the long-eestablished Blakeney stalls? Write to Letters, North Norfolk News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR11E or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org