TRADERS have started a petition to oppose plans to change a historic market.

More than 500 people have so far signed their names after Brighton and Hove City Council said it wanted to impose a new rule to the Upper Gardner Street Saturday Market in Brighton.

The petition says: “The market has been in its present form with marked and numbered pitches since the 1920s.

“The ruling has always been that licensed street traders in Upper Gardner Street could ‘place, store or sell, expose or offer for sale any article outside the area marked at the specific site’.

“Now the council licensing team are ‘consulting on reviewing their policy so that traders in Upper Gardner Street can no longer spread beyond marked pitch boundaries’, even if there are several empty pitches.

“There are, consistently, many clear spaces.

“If traders cannot spread this will leave the market looking nearly deserted, more than half empty and completely uninviting.

“Consent holders trading at specific registered sites outside this market and across the city are limited to boundaries. These tend to be sole traders – fruit or seasonal sellers, Christmas papers, chestnuts and the like and these boundary rules seem appropriate to their work pattern and are not in dispute here.”

Upper Gardner Street Saturday Market has always been a number of stalls set up in rows along both sides of the street.

The petition adds: “To enforce needless restrictions such as are suggested will be to destroy the ambience and character of the market. If the traders are constrained without any flexibility then the market will lose the appeal that it functions on.

“The council have stated that the aim of this change is to make their policy more transparent, enforceable and consistent. Officers can see no rationale for making an exception for Upper Gardner Street.”

A council spokesman said: “Officers are proposing making changes to the council’s street trading policy to bring Upper Gardner Street Market in line with other street markets in the city.

“This follows complaints from residents about traders operating outside their specified marked sites and refuse being left at the end of the day.

“The proposals would require the market traders to keep within their marked out sites, and ensure that refuse is stored and removed at the end the day.

“Upper Gardner Street traders are currently exempt from these conditions.

“Pitches for the market currently cost £127.50 per quarter of a year.

“Council officers are currently working through responses to the consultation and a report is due to go before members of the licensing committee in March.”