FEARS have been raised about the death of Stroud High Street if a new operator is appointed to take over the town’s award-winning farmers’ market.

The decision by Stroud District Council (SDC) to invite new bidders to run the Saturday market has provoked anger and disbelief among stallholders, who have rallied to the cause of the current operator Made in Stroud by setting up a petition in support of its owner Gerb Gerbrands.

Mr Gerbrands founded the farmers’ market with the proprietor of the Made In Stroud shop Clare Honeyfield back in 1999 with assistance from SDC.

The market runs in Cornhill and the adjoining streets and typically hosts around 50 stalls a week selling a range of fresh, local and regional produce.

In 2010 it won the title of Best Food Market in the BBC Food and Farming Awards and earlier this year won the Farm And Retail Markets Association’s Farmers’ Market of the Year award jointly with Surbiton market in London.

Stroud’s deputy mayor John Marjoram said SDC’s decision to run an open tender was “very disturbing” and he worried about its future if it fell into the wrong hands.

A spokesman for SDC, said: “Put simply, it’s a great market now and the only way for any provider to win the tender is if they offer a service which is as good as, or better than, at present.

“The quality of the operator is just as important as the financial criteria in our assessment. With years of experience running the market, the incumbent has a number of advantages and is in a good position to make a strong bid.”

Mr Gerbrands did not wish to comment at this stage.