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Council / Knitwear producer given permit to trade from van at two locations in town after appeal

Mary Macgregor with some of her collection. Photo: Liam Henderson
Knitwear designer Mary Macgregor with some of her garments.

A KNITWEAR producer has been granted a street trader licence to sell goods from a van in two locations in Lerwick after her application was heard again in front of councillors.

However, BAKKA’s Mary Macgregor was not granted a licence to trade from her preferred site at Irvine Place due to its proximity to shops selling knitwear.

The two sites she has been granted a licence for are Charlotte Place opposite the Esplanade bus shelter and Burns Walk, but Macgregor said the latter had previously been ruled out.

Members of Shetland Islands Council’s licensing committee met on Monday to reconsider the application after Macgregor successfully took last year’s refusal to Lerwick Sheriff Court.

There was some confusion among the applicant and some councillors at Monday’s meeting, however, over whether they were reconsidering the decision to refuse or reconsidering the application in general.

Shetland Islands Council’s legal team said it was the latter – with Macgregor saying she had assumed the former.

The licensing committee turned down the original application last year – in particular the location at Irvine Place – in view of a piece of policy which prohibits street traders from selling goods of the “same or similar class and description” as shops within 50 metres.

This is something Macgregor disputed, saying her Fair Isle work was unlike other knitwear goods sold on the street.

The committee had called for an “early review” of the 50m policy when refusing the application last year, but the council’s environmental health team said in January it did not need to be updated.

Macgregor currently trades from a stall at Harrison Square in the summer months but she wishes to sell goods from a van instead in times of peak tourist activity.

She originally applied to trade from three locations in the heart of Lerwick, but Irvine Place opposite the Bank of Scotland was her preferred site.

The street trading application received four representations/objections, including from local retailers in areas surrounding Irvine Place selling knitwear and also the town centre organisation Living Lerwick.

At Monday’s meeting Macgregor reiterated that she wished to trade from a van to so that she could focus on demand.

“My business model is a completely different business model to what you might have seen so far in Shetland,” she said.

“Mobility is very important to my business. I go where the people are – that’s my philosophy.”

Macgregor, who has taken the van to trade fairs south, added that opening a shop “is not financially viable” for her.

Lerwick North councillor Malcolm Bell asked Macgregor if she understood the logic behind other shops objecting to her application.

“They are objecting because they are very jealous of my success,” she replied, before claiming they think she is “stealing” sales.

South mainland member George Smith, meanwhile, sought clarity on the committee being asked to “reconsider the decision to refuse the application”.

“I can understand why Dr Macgregor might be confused,” he said.

SIC lawyer Paul Wishart referred to Sheriff Ian Cruickshank’s ruling on the appeal, which said the case would be referred back to the committee for reconsideration of their decision.

As the meeting moved to debate, Bell said there needs to be a balance struck between “bricks and mortar” shops and street traders in Lerwick.

He moved to refuse the application on the grounds of the 50m policy, which Lerwick South’s Stephen Flaws seconded.

North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper, however, sought to amend the motion to remove site A – Irvine Place – from consideration, which was approved.

Speaking after the meeting, Macgregor admitted she was left unsure over the wording of the report in front of councillors.

“There was confusion as to what reconsider means,” she said.

Macgregor added that site C – near Harry’s – could present problems with manoeuvring the van in and out of the space.

The knitwear producer, meanwhile, recently launched another appeal after being refused planning permission to site the van at Irvine Place to allow her to sell outwith the 28 days a year a street trader licence allows.