A TOTAL revamp of the monthly street market in Wellington is to be carried out after the operator announced he was moving to Australia.

There was controversy earlier this month when traders told Wellington Town Council that the decision to move the market from South Street to High Street had been a disaster.

Business owners said they had seen a dramatic fall in takings on the day of the market on February 24 which saw the High Street closed off to traffic in order to make way for just 13 stall-holders.

The idea that the market would bring in lots of shoppers backfired and one trader Nigel Burrows, who runs a locksmith shop in the High Street, said he took just £32 all day – 90 per cent down on a usual day.

Vic Sawdye and Estelle Goddard had been running the market and had come in for criticism from some High Street traders, although they added that they wanted to work with the operators to make the event a success for everyone.

Members of the town council’s town centre committee met on Monday (March 12) to discuss the situation and to see what could be done to improve the market.

But there was surprise when things took an unexpected twist when it was announced that Mr Sawdye had informed the council he was soon to be moving to Australia.

Cllr Keith Wheatley, who has been looking at the market along with Cllr Mark Lithgow and the council’s assets and events officer Annette Kirk, told councillors that they wanted to work with the current operators and discuss the “unhappiness” surrounding the last market.

He said they had told the operators that they would be looking for a better all-round performance in the future and wanted clarity on the stalls and where they would be sited in the High Street – to avoid any clashes with existing businesses.

But Cllr Wheatley said: “We then received an email from Vic to say that due to a family situation he was relocating to Australia.”

Councillors were told that Mr Sawdye had indicated that he would be leaving in April/May and so Cllr Wheatley said it was unlikely that the March monthly market would go-ahead.

Cllr Wheatley said Mr Sawdye’s departure meant the council could look at the overall future operation of the market.

“This gives us a window to explore the options available for the market and explore different proposals,” he said.

“There is a debate to be had about the frequency of the market and what would be the best day to have it on. But, in a nutshell, we can now put everything back on the table for discussion – this feels like a watershed moment.

“Vic’s decision to move overseas has brought this to a natural conclusion.”

Cllr Catherine Govier said: “We need to look at this afresh. There was negative feedback about the last market, but at the same time there were positives from traders wanting to work with the market.”

 Mr Sawdye said the market would go ahead on Saturday, March 30, before his planned move to Australia.