“Pizza van business has been trying to poach our customers,” Milton Keynes charitable organisation chief tells committee as he loses at hearing

Burners Lane South, Milton Keynes
Burners Lane South, Milton Keynes

A charitable organisation’s chief’s accusation that a pizza trailer operator had been using underhand tactics to try to poach his cafe’s customers were strenuously denied at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

John Mann, a director with Margaret Curtis of the Re-Use Community Project, in Kiln Farm, objected to street trading consent being given to Matej Berec’s application to sell pizza on the roadside in Burners Lane South.

“They’ve been taking pictures of our menu and sitting outside watching our customers,” said Mr Mann, whose charity helps homeless people.

In documents provided to the meeting Mr Mann also alleged that he had been told by a number of his customers that the pizza trailer operator had approached his customers to tell them he would be trading.

“This says to us that he has every intention of poaching our customers and he is already trying to do so.”

But Stacey Corrigan and Matej Berec, of Stantonbury-based Berec Catering Services, denied the allegations when they came face-to-face with objectors at the Regulatory Sub Committee of Milton Keynes Council.

Stacey Corrigan challenged Mr Mann to provide evidence for his claims. “We never did any such things. It’s very hurtful to say that. If you have the footage, please provide it.”

Mr Mann and his wife have been running their community project for 11 years, and three years ago they started up a cafe. But recently businesses have left the area and their trade has suffered.

Mrs Mann said: “It’s not really a cafe, it’s like a burger van but inside. We’ve lost three big contracts when companies moved out but we still have to pay our rents, rates, water, and we give free food to homeless people.”

The couple wanted the traders to use another street, instead of Burners Lane, but the committee was told it could only decide on the application in front of it.

The applicants said they had moved their application site 250 metres away once the cafe objected. Stacey Corrigan said: “Sorry for the application outside your premises; we don’t want to step on any toes.”

They said their pizza business could bring in more people to the area, who would then also use the Re-Use Centre.

Committee chairman Cllr MIck Legg (Lab, Bletchley West) said: “There is a good chance they will come to both of you, but we cannot predict that.

“We have decided to grant the licence, we do not feel there is enough to warrant refusal.”

But the applicants were told that they would only be able to sell from the pitch from 10am to 1pm as they were first time operators, to “see how it goes”.

“If you cannot get to that pitch, you won’t be able to park anywhere else, it is your own risk,” said Cllr Legg.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referred to John Mann and Margaret Curtis as husband and wife. This is not correct. The story also referred to the organisation as a charity, based on information that had been supplied to the council. We have been asked to make clear the Re-Use Communit Project is not a charity but is a not for profit community interest company that raises money for charities. We are happy to make the clarifcations.