Please see the report from the Director of Environment (agenda item 3).
Nigel Farmer, Head of Business Regulations, introduced the report and advised that it was for the Committee to decide whether to pass the resolution designating the named streets as a Licensed Street for street trading, and if they did so, to then decide on the date upon which the resolution was to come into effect. Mr Farmer stated that following discussions with the Space Makers agency there was a need to decide how the market was to be managed to move forward with the proposals. The options available were to appoint a market operator; to set up a mechanism by which the Council could manage the market; or to allow the traders to manage themselves.
Patricia Huertas, Town Centre Manager, advised that the report being presented was an overview to inform the Licensing Committee of the Space Makers agency’s current position. The final report was due to be completed on Friday 29 June and would be presented in draft form for officers to consider. Ms Huertas stated that the report would be presented to the Licensing Committee when fully completed.
Ms Huertas advised that the test market had taken place in the area around Bell Corner on Saturday 23 June 2012 and had been based around the theme of world food, with stalls selling prepared Asian, Polish, Mexican and other foods reflecting the diversity of the Borough. Space Makers had reported five key things back:
1) The market had been a success. Eight traders had taken part with three of them having completely sold out. An item had been published on Facebook on the Friday which had received 12 “likes”, which Ms Huertas described as a record; there had been lots of positive feedback.
2) Retailers in the High Street had been questioned to gauge their reactions. In general they had been very positive, reporting increased footfall and a belief that such markets would help regenerate the High Street. Two businesses had not been happy, one of which, CFC, were planning to lodge a complaint about the market. The other business that did not approve was a Chinese restaurant and Ms Huertas advised that CFC had in fact been very busy on the day and there had not been a Chinese food stall in the test market.
3) The location had been an issue, as the market had initially been planned to take place around Holy Trinity Church. However at a meeting on the Thursday before the market was to be held, the vicar stated that a wedding had been booked in the church for the same day and that he was no longer happy for the market to take place in the area. This, Ms Huertas advised, had demonstrated that that particular location could be problematic and that the market may need to be held elsewhere.
4) Existing traders had generally been positive about the changes as they wanted the High Street to improve. Two traders, a hot dog vendor and a jacket potato stallholder, had been positive about improvements but were concerned over increased competition.
5) The market operator who organised the event had been approached by several members of the public, all very positive about the market, who all wanted information on how they could obtain stalls.
Ms Huertas advised that the completed report from Space Makers would contain a number of recommendations which would need to be discussed at the following Licensing Committee meeting. She said that the agency were looking at different possibilities for the management of the market, as follows:
1) Community led. Under this scheme the Council would provide management and coordination and the existing market traders would work with the Council to run the market themselves. Ms Huertas advised that to successfully upgrade and regenerate the High Street the Council would need to work with the existing traders, whilst not necessarily involving them as management. She advised that Space Makers had run markets with traders elsewhere; however they had looked at this option in Hounslow and did not believe that the traders had the necessary skill sets or willingness to take on the role and that therefore the agency did not feel that a community led approach would be best for the High Street.
2) Council led. Ms Huertas advised that due to limited resources it would not be practical for the Council to take on that role.
3) A market operator. Ms Huertas advised that this was the most likely recommendation. However, she advised that caveats be put in place, for example an operator should be found who was wiling to work with existing traders and was not purely profit-led.
Ms Huertas asked members to consider when the proposals should be brought into effect and how the work still pending should be carried out.
Caroline Eaton, legal adviser, stated that the Authority was looking at establishing permanent pitches. These would be let en bloc to a market operator who would hold them and then sub-let to traders who fulfilled the Council’s criteria for the market. She asked the Committee to consider whether these pitches should sell the same goods all the time or perhaps sell different items at the weekend than during the week, which may encourage people to visit twice a week and therefore increase footfall, helping retailers in and around the High Street. If the market operator option was chosen, Ms Eaton advised, there would be a need for a procurement exercise which would take a considerable amount of time. It had been decided that existing Temporary Street Trading Licences in the area would come to an end in August and the procurement process would take several weeks. Ms Eaton advised that discussions had been held with Space Makers regarding this issue and that, whilst it was acknowledged that a Christmas start was desirable, given the Olympics and holiday periods it was unlikely that the procurement process could be carried out effectively in sufficient time to allow the market to be established before Christmas. Therefore members were asked to consider an Easter launch date to give themselves time to examine all the conditions fully, which would enable the Committee to set everything out clearly and inform the chosen operator exactly what was required. Caroline Eaton advised that there were serious dangers in rushing the process given that the pitches were truly permanent to the extent that they could be bequeathed to owners’ descendants. If this timeframe were to be followed Ms Eaton advised that existing Temporary Street Trading Licences be extended to February 2013.
Nigel Farmer stated that all existing street traders had been contacted as part of the official consultation and only one had submitted a representation. (Appendix B). All traders had been in favour of the regeneration project. Mr Farmer advised that officers did not want to extend Temporary Street Trading Licences for short periods as that would not be fair and had decided on 31 August 2012 as the end date; he agreed with Ms Eaton’s proposals to extend that date for a further six months if the Easter start date was to be adopted.
Cllr Poonam Dhillon asked if there had been any approaches from major stores wishing to move into the High Street. Nigel Farmer responded that the final make up of the market was still to be decided and that it was hoped that other businesses would be drawn into the High Street following its regeneration.
Cllr Shantanu Rajawat asked if the power to grant Temporary Street Trading Licences in the Licensed Street would transfer to the market operator if one were appointed. Caroline Eaton advised that the grant of Temporary Street Trading Licences would be controlled by the contract, allowing the Council to dictate the terms the licences operated on. Officers planned to liaise with Camden and Lambeth Borough Councils, who were operating a similar system, with regards to drafting the contract. Ms Eaton offered as an example of a possible contractual stipulation that in the first year 12 pitches might be granted selling a given mix of high quality products from Monday to Friday, with different goods at the weekend, with an expansion to 16 pitches in the second year. She stressed the need for the contract to prevent the gradual change of the goods permitted to be sold, given the permanence of the pitches. Ms Eaton also confirmed that any enforcement by the Council would be carried out against the market operator and this too needed to be established within the terms of the contract.
Cllr Liz Mammatt asked if the market operator would be granted a long contract. Patricia Huertas advised that Space Makers would provide recommendations on this point in their report. She stated that ideally any contract should allow variation and flexibility, and could include performance milestones and a termination clause allowing the Council to withdraw should the operator fail to run the market satisfactorily. Ms Huertas stressed the need to take the time to get the terms of the contract absolutely right to avoid future problems. Cllr Mammatt asked if the council would need to consult with Transport for London to establish Licensed Streets. Nigel Farmer advised that the Authority was consulting with the Highways Agency and that he would obtain further information on that subject.
Cllr Elizabeth Hughes expressed support for the idea of contracting a market operator and added that she would like to see equal opportunities language introduced into paragraph 2.1. Cllr Hughes stated that whilst she appreciated the need to take time with the procurement and contract processes, she also wished to avoid missing the opportunity to hold a Christmas market and so asked if it would be possible to hold one as a “one-off”, perhaps using a similar process to the test market on 22 June. Nigel Farmer advised that it would be possible as local businesses wanted to create occasional street markets; this would depend on the Committee’s decision. Cllr Hughes said that she would like to see a schedule that encouraged Christmas and Easter markets along with other festivities.
Cllr Paul Jabbal stated that he was not comfortable with the idea of long licences as they may stifle innovation and creativity. He believed that themed markets would be very successful, but not if they were to be held every month. He quoted paragraph 2.7 ii which proposed that a specialist/themed market be held “a few times a year” and asked how often this might be. Patricia Huertas advised that what could be done before the Licensing Committee made its decision was down to resources. She stated that from her perspective as Town Centre Manager it would not be possible to guarantee a Christmas market because of limited resources. Ms Huertas advised that it would be necessary to get the right market operator and work very closely with them to define “a few times a year” and suggested perhaps five times might be appropriate. She added that she would like to see different cultural and religious festivals incorporated.
Caroline Eaton advised that the law said that permanent pitches were owned for life and there was nothing that could be done to change that. Therefore the solution would be for the Council to give the pitch to an operator who would sub-let to the traders within a contractual framework drafted by the Council. Cllr Brad Fisher asked what would happen to weekday stalls and stock if the goods sold were to change at weekends as suggested. Ms Eaton advised that all stock would be removed at the close of each day’s trading and that Space Makers were discussing the question of storage. Patricia Huertas added that there was a total budget of £17,000 for the new market which would be best spent on temporary branded structures rather than permanent structures.
Cllr Pamela Fisher asked who would decide the number of stalls and which goods could be sold from them, and also how the Council would deal with any changes given the permanent nature of the pitches. Caroline Eaton advised that all decisions on numbers and type of stalls would remain with the Council according to the contract, adding that this was why it was vital for the contract to be drafted extremely carefully. She stated that the pitches were to be granted to the operator, not traders and control would be built into the operator’s contract. Ms Eaton advised that Space Makers had accrued considerable expertise in this area through their dealings with other Local Authorities.
Cllr Tom Bruce asked if consideration had been given to the options of granting permanent pitches to individual traders or finding sponsorship. Patricia Huertas replied that Space Makers had advised that there were a large number of significant risks regarding the grant of permanent pitches to individuals. Firstly there was a need to change people’s attitudes and move forward with regeneration plans; to set up a market on the social enterprise model would necessitate working with existing traders. The Council did not have the resources to do that but a market operator would have. Secondly, if granted a permanent pitch a trader may not go forward with improvements which would result in conflict with the Council’s objectives. If a market operator were to be contracted then enforcement issues would be for them to resolve. She confirmed that the idea of sponsorship had not been explored.
Cllr Balvir Sond asked if the plans posed any threat to Hounslow West’s Saturday market. Ms Huertas advised that Space Makers had been asked to consider the possibility but that as the High Street market was mainly cooked food it was seen as a community space and so did not directly clash with Hounslow West.
Cllr Elizabeth Hughes suggested that as time was of the essence, a sub-committee be formed to examine the recommendations and options ahead of the next meeting of the full Licensing Committee. Caroline Eaton advised that it would be possible and that any sub-committee could report back to the next full Committee. Cllr Paul Jabbal supported the suggestion, adding that Cllr Hughes had produced very useful amendments to an earlier report; he believed that a smaller group was a very good idea. Cllr Corinna Smart stated that she also felt that a sub-committee would be very useful as it could examine issues in much greater detail than was often possible with a large Committee. The Chair, Cllr Darshan Grewal, agreed and the Committee approved unanimously.
Cllr Corinna Smart advised that it would be difficult to agree a date for the introduction of the policy as it was not known how long the procurement process would take but that it was important that a Christmas market was held. She suggested that a request for support be made to Cabinet if extra resources were needed. Cllr Brad Fisher agreed and asked if a Small Grant or similar community funding could be made available. Caroline Eaton suggested that an additional Licensing Committee meeting could be scheduled for September 2012 to discuss the matter when more information was available and that a decision could be deferred until then.
Cllr Brad Fisher proposed that the Committee defer a decision on the matter until September when a full report would be available. The Chair, Cllr Darshan Grewal, seconded the motion. The Committee approved unanimously.
Patricia Huertas advised that it was necessary to work towards a specific date and that she wished to focus on Easter. She reminded members that the report from Space Makers would be a recommendation only and that more work would be needed to convert it into a final report, suggesting that if a sub committee were to be formed then it should begin to operate in July.
Cllrs Darshan Grewal, Brad Fisher, Elizabeth Hughes and Balvir Sond volunteered to form the sub-committee. The full Committee approved unanimously.
Patricia Huertas proposed that the Committee approach the Community Team to obtain funding for a Christmas market. The Chair, Cllr Darshan Grewal, agreed and the Committee approved unanimously.
Nigel Farmer advised that a large number of Temporary Street Trading Licences would come up for renewal in August and it had previously been decided not to renew from 31 August; as the Licensed Street was not now likely to commence before Easter 2013 he requested that said licences be extended for a further six months. The Chair, Cllr Darshan Grewal, agreed and the Committee approved unanimously.
That a decision on the designation of the Public Highway, namely Hounslow High Street and linked streets, in Hounslow Town Centre as a Licensed street for Street Trading from Monday to Sunday inclusive and the decision on the date upon which the decision will come into effect, shall be deferred until September 2012 when more information will be available.
That a sub committee of the Licensing Committee shall be formed to examine the recommendations from the Space Makers agency regarding the establishment of permanent pitches in the above area.
This sub committee shall comprise Councillors Darshan Grewal (Chair), Bradley Fisher, Elizabeth Hughes and Balvir Sond.
That the Community Team be approached with the aim of obtaining grant funding to assist the provision of a Christmas market in the above area in 2012.
That Temporary Street Trading Licences in the above area be renewed for an additional six months from 31 August 2012.