Traders' fury at new charges

PUBLISHED: 14:15 06 April 2006 | UPDATED: 09:58 06 May 2010

William Armitage, co-owner of David's Bookshops in Eastcheap

William Armitage, co-owner of David's Bookshops in Eastcheap

TRADERS are up in arms about plans to make them pay to put tables, chairs and even A-boards outside their shops. North Hertfordshire District Council has written to shops in the district to say they must now have a licence, which could cost up to £1,000 a

TRADERS are up in arms about plans to make them pay to put tables, chairs and even A-boards outside their shops.

North Hertfordshire District Council has written to shops in the district to say they must now have a licence, which could cost up to £1,000 a year, to put items on the pavement outside their stores.

William Armitage, (pictured) co-owner of David's Bookshops in Eastcheap, Letchworth GC, said the licence could make it unviable to continue the tradition of selling cheap books on tables outside the shop, as he has done for 40 years.

He added: "It's been such a focal point of Letchworth for so many years, it would be a big blow.

"It's a sort of Letchworth tradition."

Mr Armitage said getting the letter about the licence was "a bit of a shock".

He added: "The good thing about Letchworth is that it's got wide pavements and we should make the most of it.

"Street life is important.

"It's sort of a backward step. What they should be doing is thinking 'how can we put more stuff on the streets?'"

Mr Armitage has written to NHDC to express his concerns and is now considering what to do next.

John Aitken, owner of Truly Scrumptious sweet shop in High Street, Baldock, said he was "gobsmacked" by the decision by NHDC.

He added: "At the end of the day it's been a tradition for as far back as people have had retail shops.

"Why all of a sudden are they starting to introduce these fees?"

Keith Hoskins, town centre manager in Hitchin, said the issue had "been a cause of irritation to quite a few businesses".

He said the Hitchin Town Centre Partnership would try to resolve the situation.

A spokesman for NHDC said: "The council has a duty to regulate on-pavement displays in the interests of safety and convenience to passers by. The council reviewed the situation and agreed the charges for street trading in early 2005 after problems had arisen with certain unauthorised traders.

"The charges referred to of £20 per week and £250 per quarter refer to substantial premises like pavement café areas and will be less for simple A-boards.

"There would be no charge if it is proved that the display is on private land, as has already been established in a number of cases.

"The council is very keen to promote its town centres and is currently developing strategies for Letchworth and Baldock in particular, but such strategies must always address the control of items placed on the pavement, which, if unregulated, might proliferate and become unsightly, inconvenient and even dangerous.

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