Funding boost for Yelabus will help more people visit Fleet's Saturday farmers' markets
A TRANSPORT charity has received funding to run a Saturday bus service to support traders in Fleet.
Councillor Andy Whitaker, chairman of Yateley’s Yelabus Association, has been campaigning for a weekend service to give residents the opportunity to visit Elvetham Keys and Gurkha Square, both outdoor farmers’ markets in Fleet.
Cllr Whitaker felt that it was imperative to support local produce and to help Fleet flourish as a market town, so he appealed for funding so that a minibus could take the over 55s and their carers to Fleet’s markets. Yelabus received a £1,000 grant from a Hampshire County Council Have your Say competition and a £300 donation from Yateley Badminton and Social Club to pilot the monthly trip.
Cllr Whitaker, a member of Yateley Town, said: “Fleet town has aspirations to be the market town for Hart district.
“Yateley has a population of more than 20,000 and has no public transport means of getting to Fleet on a Saturday for shops or farmers markets.”
Hampshire Farmers’ Markets run Elvetham Heath’s event, offering produce including lamb, beef, pork, poultry, game and fish, once a month.
Alex Handford, business manager for Hampshire Farmers’ Markets, said: “We have carried out extensive price comparison surveys over recent months and we have found that a large number of items are cheaper than the supermarkets.
“The benefits of the markets to the local economy and environment also include reduced food miles and helping to maintain local rural jobs.”
Yelabus has been hit financially over recent years due to cuts in local government funding and so now relies on donations from community groups.
To make the service affordable to those who cannot use public transport, half the costs are subsidised by Hampshire county and Yateley town councils.
However, over the past three years, the county council has been under financial pressure due to the national financial crisis and has reduced its contribution by 40%.
Cllr Whitaker said: “Many organisations have made Yelabus their charity for the past few years and over my time as Yateley mayor last year the community managed to raise nearly £13,000, a magnificent but exceptional result.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed, because, in these difficult times, without this help the Yelabus service would have to be significantly cut. Thanks must also go to our volunteer drivers who are absolutely essential to this operation.”
The Yelabus Saturday Club will run on a Saturday towards the end of each month to coincide with the markets.
The next one is this Saturday, August 24. There will be a £3.50 charge per trip and door-to-door pick ups start from 10am.
There will be time set aside for passengers to get lunch before the minibus makes its journey home at 3pm.
For more information or to book a place on the bus contact the charity on 01252 879324.