Council asks people to take part in the first stage of consultation on proposed changes to street trading across East Devon

As part of their commitment to boosting our local economy, East Devon District Councillors are asking for people’s views on suggested changes to the licensing of street trading in East Devon.

Street trading includes stalls at outdoor events, street stalls, outdoor markets, festivals, roadside food vans and in car parks, including supermarket car parks. It applies to anything where someone is selling goods or services on the streets or in outside pedestrian areas or open spaces.

East Devon has a thriving small business economy with many outstanding local products. At the moment, in most of East Devon, street trading is either banned or the council has no way of making sure it is properly managed. The council’s idea is to change this to a system that would lift the current bans and more closely manage street trading by requiring anyone wanting to trade on the street to apply to the council for consent to do so.

How to take part

Questionnaires have been sent out to town and parish councils, some street traders, street trading organizations, councillors, chambers of commerce and some local businesses.

The council also want as many local residents and visitors to the area as possible to have their say.

You can find out more and fill in the questionnaire online.

To ask for paper copies of the consultation email with your address or telephone: 01395 517569.

All completed questionnaires must reach East Devon District Council by 29 July 2016. The consultation has been specifically requested by members and, if a decision is made to move forward with the proposal, there will be additional extensive consultation.

Reasons for the proposed changes East Devon has a thriving small business economy and councillors are keen for markets, festivals and street trading to flourish. But currently, the potential for any increased trade is hampered by a lack of public places where people can legally sell their goods. We want to promote our high streets and town centres in ways where shop owners and stall holders complement rather than compete with each other.

The council could also look at joining up street trading with festivals and other opportunities, using town public spaces and our car park charging flexibilities to package ways of boosting local economic activity and increasing numbers of visitors.

An increase in street trading areas would allow the council to actively and positively manage the quality of all street trading across the district, with each application being considered on its own merits. Relevant ward members and town and parish councils would also be consulted as part of the application process.

Licences would have conditions attached and could be revoked at any time, and under any circumstances. A fee would be charged to applicants by the council’s licensing service.

What currently happens

At present, East Devon has only six areas (known as ‘consent streets’) across the whole of the district where the council can issue licences for street trading to take place. These are:

  • Bath Road, Exmouth
  • Part of Northcote Lane, Honiton
  • Trinity Square, Axminster
  • Esplanade from Fisherman’s Gap to Beach Road, Seaton
  • The Square, Seaton
  • Esplanade and Promenade, Sidmouth

Most of the central streets in East Devon’s main towns, including Exmouth, Honiton, Seaton and Sidmouth, are designated as ‘prohibited streets’, where street trading isn’t allowed – even if the district council, town/parish councils or the local community were in favour of it happening.

At the other end of the scale, the remainder of East Devon is ‘uncontrolled’, which means the council has no control over any street trading in Budleigh Salterton, Ottery St Mary, less central parts of Exmouth, Honiton, Seaton and Sidmouth, as well as villages and rural areas.

East Devon is unusual in having so many prohibited streets and is now seeking to take a more modern approach by reducing the number of prohibited streets/areas in the district. Other local councils who have already successfully removed their blanket restriction include North Somerset, South Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Taunton Deane.

Honiton and Axminster Markets exemption Honiton High Street and a part of Axminster town centre have ancient charters, which allow regular markets to take place. The proposed changes to street trading licensing would not apply to these areas.

East Devon District Council’s Deputy Chief Executive, Richard Cohen, said:

We have many sole traders in East Devon, as well as a strong farming and food production history and we want to encourage these businesses to trade actively, whether it is through farmers’ markets, festivals or street stalls. We want to actively encourage opinion about these proposals, as it is vital that we gain as much feedback as possible from everyone involved. People’s comments are greatly valued and will help inform the decision making process for these changes to street trading.

More and more people are asking us if they can trade on the streets and there is tremendous public support for events like farmers’ markets and Christmas markets. There is also significant evidence to show that markets and street trading can have a positive impact on local areas and their economies.

In fact, a recent study has shown that local markets and street trading complement and support existing businesses by increasing the footfall to the area by 25%. It also showed that markets are critical to the identity of a town.