Published: 12:58, 19 June 2020
| Updated: 13:35, 19 June 2020
A town centre market - which re-opened only two weeks ago - has been suspended over social distancing fears.
Traders at Folkestone market, which operates in the high street, are now worried about their livelihoods after Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) shut them down yesterday.
The suspension comes just days after non-essential shops were allowed to reopen on Monday - which in Folkestone includes Primark, TK Maxx, Sports Direct, Choice, Waterstones and many others.
Market manager Paul Clark explains: "We opened again on Saturday, June 6 after more than 10 weeks of absence.
"We only opened with four stalls, just to try it out. The shops weren't open then.
"Yesterday was the first day we were open with the shops also open.
"But the council came down, measured up and said the distance isn't working. The reason they gave us is because of the two-metre rule.
"They're saying we're not two metres apart and they've suspended us. So now all traders are out of work.
"I suggested putting a one-way system in like we have at Sittingbourne, where there are huge arrows on the floor. But they said no.
"I also said we could spread out more - we could go near Debenhams which is closed, or down into Guildhall Street. But the council said no because of the licence.
"It was workable, but we were told no."
Mr Clark says the traders will now struggle.
He said: "It is scary. We've got mortgages to pay.
"Some traders were on furlough but as we went back to work two weeks ago have now come off that. Now they can't work again."
The Folkestone market, which has a long history in the town, operates two days a week on a Thursday and Saturday.
Traders were allowed to finish the day yesterday, but the council is now saying until the two-metre rule is lifted by the government, it can't return.
Mr Clark, who lives in Ashford, added: "This is going to affect the traders big time. We weren't given a time frame.
"I don't know why it can't work - the town is dying with shops closing and now they've shut us too.
"If they spread us out it would be fine.
"I feel upset and disappointed because we tried so hard. We eased into it with only four stalls, but were hoping to see around 10 return this Saturday.
"I had a lot of customers saying they were glad we were back.
"We have a WhatsApp group and all the traders are upset. If people aren't working their livelihood is at risk.
"I don't think they [the council] want the market there."
Government guidelines outlined that outdoor markets could reopen from June 1 as long as they are able to meet the Covid-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers.
An FHDC spokesman said: "The safety of residents and visitors is our number one priority.
"Following the reopening of Folkestone town centre, the decision has been made to temporarily halt the street market as it is not possible to ensure the social distancing requirements of two metres can be implemented given the position of the market stalls.
"This decision has not been taken lightly but our overarching responsibility is to ensure that town centre environment is as safe as possible for shoppers.
"The market will therefore not be running again until the two-metre rule is revised by central government."