COUNCIL bosses have pulled out of their agreement with a market operator amid concerns over safety.

Basildon Council has terminated its contract with Wickford market due to fears social distancing guidelines could not be followed.

It means the market will remain closed until an agreement can be reached.

A spokesman said the council appreciated there was "limited space" in the market’s current location but talks to find an alternative site have broken down.

Gavin Callaghan, leader of Basildon Council, said: “I want to see a successful market in Wickford as much as anyone. But I want to avoid a second lockdown even more.

"Our overriding responsibility at this time is to ensure residents can return to our high streets and shop safely.

“A second lockdown would devastate our economy further. We will make whatever decision necessary to stave off the threat of a local lockdown.

“We have managed to work very successfully with other traders in Wickford and across the borough, including other market traders, to see that social distancing and other safe practices are followed.

"Sadly, we have not had the cooperation we need from the operator of Wickford market, leaving us no choice but to terminate the current agreement.

“The council remains committed to working constructively to find a more suitable location where safe practices can be followed and I hope we can reach a new agreement very quickly.”

Trevor Day, who runs the market, says discussions are continuing over an alternative site but admits traders are reluctant to move from the high street.

He said: "We can't start running the market again because of social distancing. It's just too small an area.

"We need to have the high street closed to traffic but haven't got the planning permission yet so we're a bit snookered at the moment.

"We've been offered a car park around the back but it'll be too quiet for traders.

"We're still discussing it and hopefully we can sort something out soon. It certainly isn't the end of the market. It just means no one can trade at the moment."

The market has been closed since March when the UK was put into lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.