Plymouth council u-turn on car boot sale ban
CAR BOOT sales won a reprieve yesterday as Plymouth City Council did an abrupt U-turn on a planned crackdown.
Tough new rules that threatened financial disaster for charities across the city were sent back to the drawing board after a challenge by Labour councillors won cross-party support.
The council's Cabinet agreed earlier this month to invoke an ancient Royal charter to control markets and car boot sales.
The new rules – due to start from September – would have cut the number of popular Stonehouse Creek car boot sales from every Saturday and Sunday to 12 a year and limit them to 50 pitches instead of the present 100.
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There was a city-wide outcry after organisations like Stonehouse Community Centre and Plymouth Argyle Football Club told The Herald they would have been tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.
The popular Stonehouse Creek sales raise up to £30,000 a year for Stonehouse Community Centre.
Rick Cowdery, of Argyle, said a 50-pitch limit and a planned £160 licence fee meant the club would make so little after staff costs that the sales would no longer be viable.
Argyle, which runs a car boot sale every Sunday, would have been limited to one Sunday a month.
After Labour councillor Mary Aspinall challenged the new policy yesterday, the council's Scrutiny Commission agreed that there had been inadequate consultation and a failure to find out the impact on voluntary groups.
The Commission asked the Cabinet to think again and carry out more consultation with interested groups.
Ms Aspinall said that council officers had ignored the council's own policy on dealing with the voluntary sector, the Third Sector Compact.
She said a lot of charities depended on regular car boot sales like those at Peacock Meadow in Plympton and Stonehouse Creek.
Plymstock Dunstone Conservative councillor David Viney said: "This is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Please look at it, consult on it, and then come back."
Commission chairman David James (Con, Plympton St Mary) said: "There is going to be an adverse effect on car boot sales from these regulations. I know of at least one charity that would fold.
"They have their car boot sale every Sunday and fund carnivals, fireworks displays and Christmas dinners for the elderly."
Cabinet member Ian Bowyer, giving evidence to the Commission, said unauthorised market stalls like those put up on the Barbican last summer were in breach of Plymouth's 1440 Royal Charter. He said the council needed to protect its investment in the West End of the city centre, and protect the public from unscrupulous traders.
"We recognise that the level of consultation hasn't been sufficient and we are already in the process of inviting operators to come and tell us what they think," Mr Bowyer said.
"We are not in the business of trying to close down charities but we need to have a policy in place around public health and safety."
Mark Coker, Labour councillor in Devonport, said the proposed rules lumped together charities and businesses.
Andrew Jarrold, the council's assistant head of asset management, said: "I am willing to take responsibility for not following the process. I am disappointed in myself that I haven't read the council's Third Sector Compact."
The new rules would have allowed the council to charge a £160 licence for a car boot sale and limit them 12 a year on any site or by any one operator.
The Royal Charter of 1440 gives Plymouth the power to stop any markets – including car boot sales – within six and two thirds miles of the Pannier Market in the city centre. This would take in areas like Saltash and Carkeel.
Mr Bowyer said there was no intention to control markets outside the city boundaries.