Ben owner hits back at council

Sam, Chesterfield Market Horse.
Sam, Chesterfield Market Horse.

OWNERS of the ill-fated market horse, Ben, have hit back at the council’s decision to retire him.

Donna Clark, 31, and husband David, 39, have slammed the move to axe the £11,500-a-year attraction to save money and to give market traders a week’s rent-free holiday each year.

The Brimington pair, who have been bringing the horse to the market for two decades and who met through their work, say Ben’s future now looks bleak, as they will struggle to find the money for his upkeep.

“Most of the £11,000 went to keeping Ben” said Donna. “There are stable costs, field costs, hay, diesel for the horse box to bring him into town. It wasn’t a very profitable job.

“He now lives with Sam in a field. There’s not a lot for him unless we can get another job. He will just be a horse in a field.”

She also challenged the council’s claims that the cobbled streets were making Ben lame.

“He isn’t lame. He has got shoes which are used to prevent any damage to the horse.”

But Donna, who works in a supermarket, has praised the public for their support for Ben.

She said: “It has been fabulous. It shows how much people love Ben. Even my own kids would go into town and want to see the horse, even though it’s ours.”

Cllr Nick Stringer, executive member for leisure, culture and tourism at Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “The decision to retire the horse and cart was a very difficult one to make. The council was given assurance that the horse would be retired along with other horses owned by Mr Clark, and we very much hope that this is still the case. We have sympathy for Mr Clark who has stood on the market for several years, but at the same time this was a decision about re-investing the £11,500 back into guaranteeing our market traders better working conditions, and securing the long term future of Chesterfield open market.”

A petition to save Ben has been set up online, and has gathered over 400 signatures in the last three weeks.

If it gets 1000 signatures, the issue will be brought back to council for a debate.

To sign the petition, visit www.gopetition.com/petitions/say-no-to-the-axing-of-chesterfield-market-horse.html

ellie.hunter@derbyshiretimes.co.uk