SHETLAND Islands Council does not need to make any changes to its street trader licence policy.
That is the view of local authority’s environmental health team after it carried out a review following a decision by councillors last year to reject an application from a knitwear producer to trade out of a van in the centre of Lerwick.
The application from BAKKA’s Mary Macgregor was turned down because of a policy prohibiting street traders from selling goods of the “same or similar class and description” as shops within 50 metres.
This was despite lengthy discussion among councillors over whether her contemporary Fair Isle goods were similar to other knitwear being sold in shops on the street.
Macgregor took the decision to Lerwick Sheriff Court and Sheriff Ian Cruickshank upheld her appeal, calling on the council’s licensing committee to reconsider the application.
He ruled that the committee’s decision to call for an “early review” of the 50m policy – which was put in place decades ago – when rejecting the application was a “wholly irrelevant consideration”.
The review of the council’s street trading rules saw officers consider policy from Scotland’s other 31 local authorities, and in particular separation distance between traders and existing businesses selling similar goods.
“This review of the standard licence conditions as they currently stand concludes that they are in line with conditions in other local authority areas,” a report to councillors concluded.
Of the 30 local authorities which responded to Shetland Islands Council’s request, only 18 of them have a distance restriction in place.
Six of the 18 have a 50m restriction, with six – including Orkney – having a 100m limit and four at 150m.
Midlothian has a 183m limit in place, while in East Renfrewshire there is a 250m restriction.
At a meeting of the licensing committee on Monday, councillors noted the findings of the review.
Environmental health team leader David Robertson said the council’s policy has “served us well for many years”.
“New businesses should be encouraged but it should not be to the detriment of existing ones,” he added.
South mainland councillor George Smith questioned what the situation was with stalls and vans selling goods at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre and its car park – but council officers were unable to give him an any firm answers.
Lerwick North member Malcolm Bell, who called for the review at a previous meeting, said he felt the policy was proportionate and that no changes were needed.
His motion to note the findings of the review was seconded by Lerwick South councillor Cecil Smith.
Speaking after the meeting, Bell said: “These conditions have been in place now for over 20 years and I did suggest at a previous meeting that it was correct that we reviewed them.
“It was no real surprise to me to see that the review came back with a recommendation to say the conditions were appropriate and still fit for purpose.
“I think the important thing is we need to protect people who are investing in the street, and bricks and mortar as it were. But we also need to encourage vibrancy and new businesses to come there. I think these conditions as they are do that.
“They’re sensible, they’re proportionate, they protect both businesses on the street and elsewhere in the town centre for that matter, and also encourage appropriate street trading, and I think that’s the right thing to do.”