A COUNCIL department has been accused of putting a town market at risk after an “informal” phone call led to traders announcing they were packing up for good.

Shoppers at South Ockendon market were shocked by notices from traders last week thanking them for their business but informing them they would not be coming back due to a change in parking policy making it impossible for them trade safely.

Although traders have traditionally left their vans behind their stalls in front of the Daiglen Drive shops, market manager Kenny Brighthouse claims he was told by the council’s land department that traders must park their vans elsewhere in future, as the site was considered a residential area.

Paul Wells, 54, was one of the traders who decided he could no longer trade in South Ockendon if this was enforced.

He said: “They were expecting me to unload everything off the van and leave my stall unattended while I drove the van away.

“But I’m a sole trader like most of the others here, I can’t afford to employ anyone to watch the stall, so if this goes ahead I can’t come to South Ockendon market anymore.”

The council denies such an order was made, claiming an “informal” conversation with Mr Brighthouse had taken place following complaints about parking, but did not specify what was discussed.

A spokesman said: “Contrary to reports, Thurrock Council is not taking any action against traders parking vans in South Ockendon.

“After receiving complaints about parking in this residential area we did speak informally to the market operator but we have not demanded that the vans be removed.”

But Mr Brighthouse said he believed the authority was backtracking on a policy he made clear would fail and which more than 300 residents signed a petition against.

He said: “They tried to get all the vehicles off the market last year and I said it wasn’t going to work then.

“There was no misunderstanding.

“I just don’t think they realised the uproar it was going to cause.”

He added traders were under license to park their vans elsewhere but that an understanding had always existed with the council.