Council red tape has cost Milton Keynes area fish and chip van man 'one year’s trade', he claims

A patient street trader has been waiting for a year for council red tape to allow him to sell fish and chips for a few hours once a week to hungry villagers near Milton Keynes.

But the patience of Benito Marella was wearing thin at a meeting of the Regulatory Sub-Committee of Milton Keynes Council on Monday where he was making his case to be able to trade at Hanslope Village Hall.

Mr Marella and his fish and chip van

Mr Marella and his fish and chip van

After the meeting, Mr Marella, who now faces another 28-day delay as the council publicises the result of the decision to partially lift the trading ban, said: “I have gone through the process properly and have lost out on a year’s trading.

“If I’d have set up illegally I would have been able to prove that there are no problems, it seems wrong for something so simple. Most of the village wants us to trade there and we have permission from the Village Hall Committee.”

The Village Hall Committee, in the form of chairman Andy Grout, was all in favour of the arrangement when he spoke up on Monday.

Mr Marella’s fish and chip van, called Blue Marlin, had been using the car park of The Watts Arms pub without any recorded problems until the pub decided to change its policy, the committee heard.

But the trouble is, there was a blanket ban on all street trading in Newport Road. This includes car parks off the road, even if the land owner has given permission.

Getting a street trading ban lifted is no small thing for Milton Keynes Council, where councillors first had to meet to agree to consult on lifting the ban. A public consultation was carried out and 11 residents of Hanslope sent in objections.

This, in turn, meant that the Regulatory Sub Committee, of four councillors, a legal officer, a licensing officer, and an administrator, was called together for a meeting on Monday.

None of the objectors were at the meeting to make the case but licensing officer Ed Fisher said there were concerns that more traders would be able to set up in the area.

He explained that the committee could grant consent for the village hall car park to be used, but others would still have to apply to be able to trade.

Mr Fisher praised Mr Marella for doing the right thing with the process and said the council had received no complaints about his trading anywhere in the borough.

Mr Marella told the committee that he had the support of the majority of 2,000 people in Hanslope. “2,000 people really want me there,” he said. “I only want to trade from 4pm to 7.30pm one a week, there is no demand for any more in the village.

“I really can’t see what the problem is,” he added.

The committee heard that an anonymous leaflet had been sent around the village, making allegations that were inaccurate, in order to drum up opposition.

Mr Grout said: “From the village hall perspective letting them use a car park space is a public-spirited action. His is a popular service in the village.”

He added that the village hall had worked hard to ensure that activities were not causing noise, pollution, or traffic problems.

“He trades in other local villages and none of them have a bad word to say,” Mr Grout added. “They have had no problems and that’s why we are quite happy to support the application.”

Announcing the committee’s decision to partially lift the trading ban, chairman Cllr Mick Legg (Lab, Bletchley West) said: “We have taken the view to designate the village hall car parks as a consent site. We are happy with what we’ve heard, and that you are providing a service, and it is not just to make money.”

He added that he hoped that the village hall would reject any other applications to use its car park.