WITH VIDEO: A protest over the skies

A plane flying a banner across the skies of Wigan town centre, in support of Wigan Markets.
A plane flying a banner across the skies of Wigan town centre, in support of Wigan Markets.

WIGAN’S market traders took to the skies to protest against the council’s rent policies.

Stall holders organised for a plane to fly over the town centre at 1pm on Friday, with a banner reading Wigan Metro Killing Your Market to showcase their anger at Wigan Council over “astronomical rents” and falling footfall.

The publicity stunt - which was funded out of their own pockets and aided by a secret sponsor - was aimed at shaming the council and making the community aware of their plight.

The group of stall holders, led by co-chairmen Michael O’Connor and Paul Ainscough, issued the authority an ultimatum to reduce rents, or else they would act.

As the council failed to respond, the traders launched a crusade - under the name Blame The Council, hoping to get the public on their side.

Speaking of behalf of the traders, Mr O’Connor said: “We have paid a lot of money out of our own pockets but we feel it is a valuable investment. We needed to do something shocking to let everyone know what is going on. Wigan Council doesn’t like bad publicity. We are skint but we see this as an investment as this could get the council to listen. Once the pictures and video go viral, we will get more public support and feedback.

We needed to do something shocking to let everyone know what is going on. Wigan Council doesn’t like bad publicity

Michael O’Connor

“We have been trying for years to get the council to see our plight. Rents are astronomically high and the market is dying.

“We want the council to cut us some slack on our rent until they work on increasing footfall again. They need to fill the empty stalls.”

A spokesman for Wigan Council said it has offered traders the chance to receive a 7.5 per cent rebate for paying rent promptly, with a 10 per cent reduction under discussion.

As a way to appease and encourage traders, the authority has also offered other incentives to traders, such as a 50 per cent reduction for opening a second stall, new traders or new products holders.