A Saffron Walden market trader who has run her stall for 39 years is campaigning to be allowed to keep her spot, after being absent due to illness.

Jacqui Portway is currently unable to run her 'Country Collectables' stall as she is awaiting surgery for a knee fracture, and also has a cracked rib.

Saffron Walden Town Council called a meeting of the assets and services committee in April to discuss Jacqui's sickness absence. According to Jacqui, she was unaware of the meeting and not invited to speak.

On May 6, Jacqui received a letter informing her that if she did not return to work by June 17 she would lose her pitch.

She tried to return to the market on June 10, but preparing the stall was too much for her, so she begged the council to reconsider.

Jacqui said: "I’m completely worn down by this whole situation. I would have liked the opportunity to speak at the assets and services meeting to explain my situation properly.

"Going behind my back and refusing information has impacted severely on my health.

"Let the pitch until I’m better and let Country Collectables remain in the market on its original pitch."

Jacqui's friend Barney French started a petition for Jacqui to retain her stall.

He said: "Jacqui's commitment to the market and Saffron Walden as a whole is undeniable.

"She has been heavily involved in organising charitable, music, and arts events for many years in the town.

"She has been an integral part of the Saffron Walden Initiative, and a massive supporter of her fellow market traders promoting their goods and services on social media."

The petition has already amassed more than 250 signatures.

A town council spokesperson said: "SWTC's market terms and conditions generously allows traders a maximum of eight-weeks absence from the market, provided this is supported by appropriate medical evidence. 

"Most recently, the council has extended this grace period from eight weeks to 16 weeks in support of traders with ongoing health issues. 


"A review of neighbouring market operators evidences Saffron Walden Town Council’s allowance generously far exceeds that granted by any other local market authority.

"During any long-term authorised absence, the trader is not requested to make a pitch payment whilst many other operators will levy an absence charge.

"In the specific case of Country Collectables, the trader has been advised the Town Council would look favourably on a request to return to the market once they are well enough to do so; this offer still stands.

"The Town Clerk and Operations Manager met with the trader on May 30 to discuss a return to the market, noting the opportunity for friends, family or members of the community to manage the pitch on the traders behalf. The trader did not progress this option. 

"SWTC acknowledges and appreciates the ongoing community works carried out by Ms Portway, and the Country Collectables’ pitch is a separate matter and SWTC treats all traders fairly and equally and does not favour or discriminate one trader over another."

To sign the petition go to https://www.change.org/p/sw-town-council-reverse-decision-to-close-country-collectables.