TOWN centre management firm InSwindon will have to move its ‘buzzing’, new street market in Havelock Square – because Swindon Council has banned street trading in that area.
InSwindon set up the weekly Thursday market last month, apparently in a bid to increase footfall for existing businesses, who fund the firm through a levy on business rates.
The council’s planning committee was told last night that the organisation had gained planning permission, but licensing officers were not approached and the market was technically illegal, because Havelock Street was a prohibited area for street trading.
Street trading became a controversial issue in 2010 when the council amended its street trading consent scheme to ban traders from operating in the main shopping areas as part of the regeneration vision for the town centre.
Last night, the meeting was told the council had enforced the prohibition through the civil courts, and had secured five injunctions against street traders who were continuing to trade, including in Havelock Street.
After a debate last night, the council agreed to re- inforce the ban and talk to InSwindon after tomorrow’s market to encourage it to relocate to a legitimate site, with Wharf Green being the best option until the ban can be reviewed. If InSwindon does not comply, the council could take legal action.
Coun Peter Heaton-Jones (Con, St Andrews) said he was against any action which would stop the market operating just before Christmas when it appeared successful.
He said: “I walked down to Havelock Square last Thursday to see the market and was pleasantly surprised, it was absolutely buzzing. And the range of stalls, although the market was small it was perfectly formed.
“Footfall, from what I could see, was increased. I imagine people had specially come in for that. I spoke to about four of the stallholders and they were absolutely happy.
“This market has been going now for a few weeks. It’s got a reputation, it’s clearly getting custom. We would be looking frankly pretty silly if we trod on it with eight weeks to go to Christmas.”
But some councillors were angry InSwindon had apparently circumvented the council, especially as a licensing sub-committee has been set up recently to investigate options for a town centre market, including its location.
Coun Emma Faramazi (Con, Priory Vale) said: “I think there should be a market, which is why we’ve started this sub-committee.
“In doing this before we’ve had the chance of completing what we sought to do has belittled the committee.
“We really need to make an example of a body of people who have just done what they want and flouted the rules.”