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Riverside ice cream ban: decision deferred

James Hatts

The debate about itinerant ice cream trading along the Southwark riverside looks set to run and run as councillors defer a decision on a proposal to ban trading for a second time.

Southwark's licensing committee met on Thursday evening to consider a proposal to ban itinerant ice cream trading along the riverside between Oxo Tower Wharf in the west and St Saviour's Dock in the east and as far south as Stamford Street, Southwark Street, St Thomas' Street, Crucifix Lane and Tooley Street.

The proposal had been due to be discussed at the committee's June meeting but was deferred at the request of Cathedrals Ward councillor Danny McCarthy who believed that more consultation was necessary.

The report by council officers reccommending a ban followed consultation carried out last summer. Questionnaires were sent to 1,000 residential and business addresses in the affected area. Of the 14 per cent who responded, more than 70 per cent supported the idea of a ban.

The council also received representations supporting the ban from the Bankside Residents' Forum, Falcon Point Management Group, Better Bankside, Shakespeare's Globe and Tate Modern.

The meeting heard from Richard Barker, a solicitor representing Elma Sanli, whose ice cream and hot dog van can regularly be seen on Bankside in front of Shakespeare's Globe.

Mr Barker presented committee members with a dossier of papers containing more than 30 letters of support from Mrs Sanli's customers, including several from local residents and workers. Also in the file was a petition with almost 800 signatures calling for the licensing of riverside ice cream traders.

"If you prohibit ice cream trading in this area you are putting [Mrs Sanli] out of a job", Mr Barker told councillors.

Labour's Cllr Alison McGovern described the proposal to ban ice cream trading without considering the possibility of licensed pitches for ice cream vendors as using "a sledgehammer to crack a nut".


A compromise motion proposed by Lib Dem councillor David Hubber and seconded by Labour's Ola Oyewunmi was agreed unanimously.

The motion asks council officers to bring forward a report at the earliest opportunity into the feasability of licensing a small number of ice cream pitches.

Such licences would be issued by a meeting of the whole licensing committee rather than delegated to a sub-comittee or council officers.

The motion also deferred a decision on the proposal to ban itinerant ice cream traders until a licensing scheme had been considered.

Cllr McCarthy spoke of the strong feelings of local residents who object to the noise and fumes produced by ice cream vans which stay in one location for long periods rather than moving on at regular intervals. He told colleagues that he "didn't realise the fervour [he] was going to unleash" when he discussed the matter with Bankside residents.

The Cathedrals ward councillor added that whatever measure was eventually adopted by the committee, he was adamant that officers should "enforce the law rigidly".

Also present at the meeting was lifelong Southwark resident Sefer Huseyin whose Five Star Catering business is based in Camberwell. He says that he has been trying to get a licence to sell ice cream in the borough for two decades.

"I can quite honestly say that I am not and never have been an itinerant ice cream trader, nor do I trade illegally," says Mr Huseyin.

He supports the licensing of a small number of pitches for the sale of ice cream: "As it is clear that the council does not want ice cream vans in the area I would propose that the needs of the people be met by issuing a licence for an ice cream vendor working from a static unit, as approved by other councils when they found ice cream vans undesirable."

He added: "I am not asking the council to give me a licence, merely the opportunity to apply for one."

The committee will receive a report from officers on the feasibility of a licensing scheme at its October or November meeting.

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