Business Community Constituency Council Downpatrick Government NMD Council South Down Westminster

Calls to Review Council Policy on Street Trading

Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has said Newry, Mourne & Down Council must urgently review its policy on street trading as a recent policy change has been an “abject failure” and has led to many local traders seeking urgent financial support. 

The South Down MP this week met with more than a dozen local traders who are increasingly concerned that Council’s approach to trading pitches will not only put them out of business, but is ultimately bad for local ratepayers also. 

Chris Hazzard said: 

“In 2021 Council decided to categorise a number of supposedly popular trading pitches across the district as lucrative ’tourism’ pitches. Locations including Bloody Bridge, Tyrella, and Murlough amongst others were quickly identified and fees were hiked from £940 per annum to more than £4,000. Moreover, where a trader could pay monthly previously, that flexible option would no longer be available. 

“To make matters worse, Council decided to outsource the management of these pitches to a London based tendering consultancy – with absolutely no experience, knowledge or understanding of the local trading environment. 

“Clearly this policy change was designed to favour the large, multinational hospitality business at the expense of small, local sole traders. What a farcical situation then that Council’s latest business marketing strategy tells us to ‘Keep it Local; Keep it Newry, Mourne & Down’!!

“As a result of this policy change a number of these supposedly lucrative tourism pitches remain vacant – as they are economically unviable. No trader can afford £4,000 for a pitch with less than 8 weeks trading, and in reality – much of the high season trading remains inconsistent at best. 

“One former trader I spoke with this week had to relinquish a pitch because the previous fee was simply too expensive to operate in today’s economic climate. Yet Council responded by hiking the fee for that pitch to £4,000; unsurprisingly the pitch still lies vacant. This is illogical – a lose lose situation where a local trader has lost a business opportunity, and visitors lose out on a popular service. 

“Like many sole traders across South Down, the last few years have been very challenging for these traders, with the price of fuel and produce at record highs. The decision then to demand payment in full from these ’tourism’ pitches, with no ability for traders to pay in instalments like other street traders in the district is also unacceptable. 

“Many traders have been left with no choice but to put prices up – some traders talk about a single cup of coffee now £1 more expensive because of the hike in fees. Again it is the visitor – many of whom are local ratepayers – who are also losing out as a result of these illogical policy changes. 

“Council must listen to the concerns of local traders – many of whom have a lifetime’s experience. This policy change has been bad for local traders; and bad for local ratepayers. It must be urgently reviewed before the next financial year.”


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