It’s refreshing to see that Swindon Borough Council’s licensing committee has had the sense to ignore, for the moment, its officers’ recommendation to ban street traders from much of Swindon town centre. It has postponed making a decision because, without more detail about the regeneration which putting street traders out of business is meant to support, the case wasn’t well made. I suspect that even with more detail, the case for removing street traders wouldn’t be obvious. We already know much about the New Swindon Company’s plans for degenerating regenerating the town centre. Even in some of the grander plans that have now failed, there was nothing that would justify removing the street traders from the existing pedestrianised area. There’s also nothing in the council’s own licensing policy that would justify such a move.
Unfortunately for the street traders, there’s not much cause for celebration, as the European Union has plans to make their lives more difficult too. The proposal for removing street traders contained this little EU gem.*
the EU Services Directive takes effect before the 2010 season and seems to decree that consents (which are not renewable) cannot be preferentially offered to incumbent traders but must instead be opened up to competition (randomly chosen from those meeting the standard, not determined by a bidding process).
So even if the council’s decision is put off indefinitely — rather like the town centre regeneration — the existing street traders may lose their pitches in an EU instigated lottery anyway.
Anyone remember the ‘principle of subsidiarity’?
*A few words of caution: in a quick search of the EU’s directives I couldn’t find this directive. I am, perhaps, putting too much trust in Swindon Borough Council’s Head of Licensing.