A VETERAN market trader fears stallholders will lose business because of the council’s ‘stupid’ changes to opening hours.

Bob Althorp of R & C Althorp fruit and vegetables used to be able to access Winsford market at 5am in order to get his stall set up in time.

But in an unsigned letter leaving traders only a week to adjust, Cheshire West and Chester Council told stallholders they could only get in at 7am from Monday, September 9.

“It’s affecting me very badly, as it is with other people on the market,” said Bob. “We need enough time to get unloaded and set up, “Now, customers are coming in and I’m still setting up.

“I think it’s stupid. What do they want us to do? Send people to Asda?”

Bob has to be at Smithfield Market in Manchester at 3am in order to get his produce.

He then leaves an hour to get back to Winsford for 5am to get ready and take delivery of his potatoes at 6am.

Whereas some market stalls can leave their stock in place, Bob and other traders who offer fresh produce have to set up from scratch every day.

The council’s changes mean he and others will be sat waiting in the dark until they’re allowed in.

“We’re back to 1970 and traders having to unload in the street. It’s driving people away.

“Other people on the market think it’s ridiculous. We’re all very worried.

“What do I do at Christmas when we’ve had people coming in early to pick up their vegetables because of the high demand at that time of year?”

“The council told us a week before in an unsigned, undated letter. If we could have talked to someone we might have come to a compromise, maybe a 6am opening.”

“All you get off the council is: ‘it’s nothing to do with me, you need to speak to the person in charge’, but you can never get hold of them.”

A Council spokesman said: “We have brought the opening hours of Winsford market in line with markets across the borough, which have a 7am opening.