Dog lover feels forced to quit popular stall

Alexa Nisbet and Jack Russell Lisa. Picture Jane Coltman
Alexa Nisbet and Jack Russell Lisa. Picture Jane Coltman

An animal lover says she has been forced to quit her fund-raising stall in Alnwick after more than 20 years, claiming she has been victimised.

Alexa Nisbet regularly ran her Alexa’s Animals Dog Rescue charity stand at the Fish Market, below the Northumberland Hall, but has now vacated the plot, following a change in booking procedures.

Previously, bookings for the space were managed by the Tourist Information Centre, but recently transferred to the registrars, as agents for Northumberland County Council. The Northumberland Hall is being promoted as a wedding venue after a major refurbishment.

Alexa says that following the booking changes, the registrar told her on September 7 that she was banned from the space. She claims that Alnwick Markets had told the registrars that she was trading without a licence, was blocking a right of way and questioned insurance. Alexa claims she doesn’t need a licence as she is a charity, says she has done it for 20 years and that she had insurance.

Subsequently, Alnwick county councillor Gordon Castle was contacted by concerned supporters of the charity. He then met the county council to put in place new procedures for the Fish Market. These include that the area needs to be booked on a single session basis with the registrars, enough access space needs to be left for a double buggy or mobility scooter and other parts of the market square can’t be used as display areas.

Alexa says that Coun Castle ‘kindly intervened’ but feels she can no longer use the space due to the restrictions and says the unfairness of the complaints against her have made it too upsetting for her to return.

She says she feels victimised, claiming Alnwick Food Festival ‘immediately broke’ the new regulations when it used the Fish Market in mid-September. She is looking for a new space and thanked her supporters.

Philip Angier, of Alnwick Markets, said they were approached informally by the registrars to ask if they would monitor the use of the space on Market Days. He said the Markets questioned whose responsibility it would be to check that any tenant had the appropriate cover and assessments in place as the Fish Market is not covered by the Markets’ licence or insurance. He said the food festival had booked the Fish Market before the changes.

A county council spokesman said: “The council is not preventing Ms Nisbet from running her operation in the Fish Market, but is exploring ways of helping her meet the conditions applicable to all similar activities.”

Coun Castle said: “The space has a history of being used for charitable purposes. This will continue, but with some reasonable procedures put in place.”