This week has not been a good one for the remaining street traders in Swindon town centre. Following Swindon Borough Council’s refusal to renew their trading licences for their current pitches, it is now taking five of them to court. They are accused, apparently, of obstruction. Seemingly seats by a mobile stall are an obstruction; seats outside a coffee shop are not, even when that shop is in a busier street.
Obstruction?Not an obstruction?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the council’s planning officers have now waded in with a policy that contradicts what the traders might have once have been lead to believe by the head of licensing, Mr Starling. Back then, they were lead to believe that the council didn’t mind fast food stalls, just not in their present location.

The land in front of the old post office site in Fleming Way adjoins an area which has been cleared in anticipation of major redevelopment works. It enjoys a temporary ‘vacant’ status and does not suffer from conflicts of use. Short-term use of that space is desirable and street trading could fill that void…. Fast food trading may not be the ideal use for the site but the area has been plagued by drug dealers and street drinkers in the past and a strategically located fast food van could help to prevent their return. There are good reasons for rejecting hot food trading in the core of the town centre but this location offers a possible alternative location for use of that kind.

The planning officers take a different view.

Street Trading Pitches for the sale of hot food have a potential to have an impact on surrounding uses in terms of noise, smell, pollution. Unlike shop units it is difficult to provide adequate ventilation and filtration systems to mitigate these issues…. Associated litter and antisocial behaviour can also be a problem.
Therefore [hot food] pavement traders operating from mobile units and temporary stalls will not be supported within the Town Centre and Old Town area’s (sic) as defined within the adopted Swindon Central Area Action Plan (2009) (or as amended), unless part of an organised Market. They will also not be supported in Local or District Centres.

It’s increasingly looking as though the main aim of these policy changes is to put the stallholders permanently out of business.

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