Sunday, 26 February 2012

Street Trading

Last week Penzance Town Council’s General Purposes Committee had a hard decision to make regarding a Street Trading Licence. Although the issuing of Street Trading Licences is a Cornwall Council decision (more on this later) the town council is consulted.

The application was for a stall in Market Jew Street, by Lloyds Bank, operating for up to seven days a week selling Olives and other related items.

When considering a Street Trading Licence the most important area that is taken into account by the committee are the goods being offered for sale, if there is a business already operating from a shop/retail premises selling the same or similar items in close proximity to where the applicant wishes to trade, we have to consider the effect the issuing of the licence would have on that business.  

The reasoning behind this is, we, as I’m sure most others do, want as many retail shops to remain on our High Street as possible.  As a street trader will have a commercial advantage, in that they do not have the fixed overheads associated with maintaining a retail outlet i.e. rent, business rates, insurance, electricity etc. The shopkeeper’s viability could well be severely affected by the granting of a street trading licence, which pays a one off fee per annum.

Whereas the opening of a shop selling the same or similar goods, over which Councils have little or no control, is a commercial decision for the shopkeeper.

In this case there are two retail shop’s selling a similar range of goods in immediate proximity to where the applicant wished to trade.  Not withstanding this, the vote was tied and came down to the casting vote of the acting chairman; a post that I had stood down from at the last meeting, the recommendation was for refusal.

I can think of few areas that Town & Parish Councils could manage better than Cornwall Council than Street Trading Licensing.

The local clerk’s office could discuss with applicants before they submit their application, the criteria on which it will be judged, offer alternatives, explain developments that are in the planning stage, the applicant could still submit the application, that’s their right, but an application could be managed better. It would enable Town & Parish Councils to encourage street trading in areas of the Town that could do more to assist Town Centres to remain viable.

Do I think that Cornwall Council will hand over the managing of Street Trading to the Town & Parishes, no, they see it purely as a revenue stream and as such something to hang on to.

For the record I voted in favour of the granting of the licence, Cllr P Rendle was Chairman. 

Update: My thanks to Cllr A Wallis for pointing out that Street Trading is a Statuary Duty, so Cornwall Council can not pass to Town & Parish Councils. One, for the Localism agenda maybe.  

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