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Concerns raised over proposed location of knitwear van

Lerwick's Commercial Street. Photo: Shetland NewsLerwick's Commercial Street on a busy summer's day. Photo: Shetland News

OBJECTIONS have been lodged against plans for a local knitwear company to trade out of a van in the centre of Lerwick.

Concerns have been raised by Living Lerwick and some town based retailers over an application for a street trading licence from Fair Isle knitwear company BAKKA to sell goods from a van when cruise ships are in Lerwick, as well as during peak periods like Up Helly Aa and Christmas.

The main point of consternation is that the preferred location of the van, which is at Irvine Place just off Commercial Street, is within 50 metres of other shops selling knitwear.

Shetland Islands Council’s conditions for street traders licences state that the trader shall “not engage in street trading within 50 metres of any establishment of premises in which the same or similar class and description are sold or offered for sale”.

BAKKA, which is run by Mary Macgregor, also applied to trade from Burns Walk and Charlotte Place, but the former site has been ruled out.

Macgregor said in her application that her work is unique as “no-one else is producing Fair Isle knitwear in fine gauge”, and as a result she does not feel it is “the same or similar class and description” as any other retailer operating within 50 metres.

A decision to grant or turn down the street trader licence application will be made at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s licensing committee on Monday.

BAKKA has traded from a stall at Harrison Square since 2017, but that licence is due to expire in June next year and she is keen to move sales into a van.

Writing on behalf of Living Lerwick directors, project manager Emma Miller said the organisation objected to the application as it seeks to ensure the best possible trading conditions for its members.

“Having a temporary trader set up on busy days to sell similar goods to her neighbours, but without having to pay the high overheads faced all year round by the established businesses, is not a fair playing field and we do not feel the council should condone this,” she said.

Macgregor, who would drive the van back and forth to Lerwick when it is not trading, said in her submission to the council that she is trying to “bring more life to the street”.

It added that she would direct customers to other knitwear shops if they were after something she did not offer.

Customers, meanwhile, would enter into the van instead of having to stand outside.

The knitwear maker ended up applying for planning permission to site the van at Irvine Place for more than 28 days after her initial approach to the council to become a market operator hit a dead end.

The planning application has received a number of objections to date, including from Lerwick Community Council and the nearby Richard Gibson Architects, with some of the concerns relating to traffic and pedestrian safety.

However, it also received some letters of support, with one person saying “any business that brings customers into the centre of town will ultimately benefit all the business in that area”.