PLANS that could see Ledbury’s Saturday market expanded have prompted a mixed reaction from town traders.

The town’s charter market working party has agreed to look into an ambitious plan by town councillor Tony Bradford, who says he wants to see Ledbury’s offering to match that of Tewkesbury.

He said a boosted Saturday market, which could be launched by next Easter, would bring in revenue and help the town council pay for extra services he believes it will be forced to take on from cash-strapped Herefordshire Council. These extra services are likely to include the public toilets, he said.

However, some shop owners have claimed the expanded market could take away trade from their stores. Currently, Ledbury’s Saturday market, which takes place on a site near the Market House, is limited to 12 pitches.

Expanding the market area would require the use of more parking bays in the High Street, something that happens when the occasional French Market comes to town.

And Coun Bradford, who pitched his idea to the town’s environment and leisure committee, said the boosted market would bring a number of benefits. “We want as many market traders as we can get, and it will help us to pay for the town’s toilets,” he said. “People will become aware that there is a large market here, like at Tewkesbury.

“At the moment, we are restricting the number of market traders who can come here, by saying we are full to capacity. That is absolute rubbish.

“The French market, when it comes here, goes almost up to the Top Cross, and that is what we want. We need to attract more people into Ledbury.” Ledbury’s Charter Market, which historically has struggled, features around nine regular traders after it came under the wing of a professional manager, earlier this year.

And town clerk Karen Mitchell confirmed there is a waiting listing for the more popular Saturday Market, which is still under the wing of the town council.

She said: “There are only a certain number of pitches, and we can’t let more than we’ve got, and so we have a waiting list of traders for the Saturday market.” She said as a result, the market is not currently offering “a huge variety of stuff” to shoppers.

But High Street antique dealer and interior designer John Nash said he had “mixed feelings” about Coun Bradford’s proposals, and feared a boosted market could take business away from shop retailers.

“It’s a thorny subject,” he said. “Saturday is when most of the retailers here do most of their business.

“But I suppose you could say it might bring more people into town, and leave that as an argument. However, it is debatable if that would actually happen.”

Homend trader and town councillor Annette Crowe said she was worried an expanded Saturday market would eat up valuable car parking space in the High Street.

“We do need all the car parking spaces we have. On the busiest day for shopping, people need to park their cars,” she said.

“I hear both sides of the argument, and I have to study the proposals.”