'Chai lattes and Tibetan curries' move denied by Birmingham council in fight with street traders

A new Birmingham street trading policy is not designed to replace current stalls with those selling “chai lattes and Tibetan curries”, a court heard.

Speaking at a judicial review of the policy in the High Court today, a lawyer representing Birmingham City Council denied the new policy was intended to bring about a “gentrified offer” in the city.

The legal challenge has been made by Allan and Samantha Poole of Birmingham Street Traders Association (BSTA) following the publication of a new policy for street trading consents beginning this year.

The policy contains a criteria for “innovative products” – which Mr and Mrs Poole’s legal team have said will “put traders at the mercy of what retail shops choose to do”.

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The BSTA have said the new policy threatens the livelihoods of long-standing traders in the city.

Speaking today (April 8) on the second and final day of the hearing, Jonathan Manning representing Birmingham City Council, said: “Innovative approach is what the council is looking at.”

He said the wording does not mean traders are required to sell “something no one has ever hear of, that no one knew existed”.

He added: “It’s your approach to innovation. It means they will consider the trader’s approach to selling innovative products.

“If you are a burger van, you can still innovate within the burger market by selling goods that are perhaps more diverse than you were previously selling.

“An example could be adding a vegetarian line or a different kind of meat – one could have a venison burger.”

He said the “innovative approach” criteria was one part of a number of points the council would use to rate a trader’s application.

He denied the policy was designed to bring about an economic objective – namely to replace the current street traders with a “much more gentrified offer”.

He said: “We say that is not remotely the case. [The innovative approach criteria] is so subtle, the idea of influencing the economic outcomes […] is in my submission fanciful.

He said it was not right that the policy was “an attempt to influence the market so as to encourage the traders of products such as chai lattes and Tibetan curries over more prosaic items”.

Sarah Sackman, representing the street traders, said: “Just because an authority says something does not have an economic aim, does not mean that it does not.

“It wants to move from a ‘lower quality’ limited range to a higher quality and expanded range. That’s part of its aim.

“The council through its innovative products criterion is favouring some providers in the market namely the high street over those traders who can’t show that they innovate.

“That brings honest questions of market structure.”

She said there were a “number of ways” the council could choose between street traders other than by referring to innovation, such as “social impact” or connection between products sold and the local area.

His Honour Judge David Cooke said the parties could expect a judgement “in a number of weeks” – and that if he decides in favour of the street traders, it would not mean the “quashing “of the whole policy.