Eating out

As I’ve noted elsewhere, one of the less pleasant experiences when stepping out from the Brunel Centre into Havelock Square is the rather sickly smell of cooking doughnuts. That said, I wouldn’t wish to deny anyone visiting Swindon town centre their dose of doughnuts, just not in such a cramped location. Swindon Borough Council has taken a different view, refusing licenses for both the doughnut seller and a hot-dog stall.

Hot food trailers and vans tend to function as portable shop units, operating in isolation. Where it appears that they are being used (or will be used) principally to save on costs relative to competing cafes and take-aways, a street trading consent will not normally be granted.

Where the infrastructure or trading opportunities are such that a fixed retail unit could not be justified or accommodated, a fast food trailer will be considered for consent.

’Tis an odd political world where a blue-nest controlled council is opposed to competition. The change in policy comes after what was described as ‘a comprehensive consultation exercise’ — so comprehensive that only four organisations were consulted. The logic underpinning the policy is also, to be generous, poor.

In all three cases it is plain that there is a significant customer demand for their services, otherwise they would not survived over a long period. In terms of location, that suggests that the stalls are conveniently placed for their customers. The desirability of the pitches from the commercial standpoint of the traders is not in any doubt. The question remains whether pedestrianised areas within retail developments are there for the benefit of shoppers and fixed retail premises or whether they are just another resource for accommodating additional commercial activity.

If someone chooses to buy something from one of these stalls, does that not make them a shopper? If ‘resource for accommodating additional commercial activity’ is such a bad thing why bother with the town centre regeneration?

Update: within a few days the doughnut seller has been granted a new pitch in The Parade.