Cromer declares war on clutter

Only a handful of Cromer traders will be street legal when a new clampdown on pavement tables and displays kicks in on New Year's Day officials have warned.

Only a handful of Cromer traders will be street legal when a new clampdown on pavement tables and displays kicks in on New Year's Day officials have warned.

New rules in the resort will be the blueprint for controlling street goods in other towns across North Norfolk.

But despite warning letters and a roadshow day to show traders the new system, only five or six have applied for the permits.

For some it means a basic £25 fee, but one street café faces paying a further £400 a year for using the path for its tables and chairs.

Those without permits will get a further warning to remove goods and advertisements early in January before officials come round and remove any still remaining without permission.

North Norfolk District Council environmental health manager Chris Cawley felt those who had not come forward either realised they would not get permission because their pavements were too narrow, were put off by the extra public liability insurance demands, had simply forgotten or were still finalising their applications.

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The response was “disappointing” particularly as it was the forerunner for schemes to apply across the whole district.

Under the scheme traders need to have permits which will only be granted if street displays are safe and have a 2m clearance for pedestrians, which is difficult on some of Cromer's narrower streets.

When the council returned to work after the Christmas and New Year break officials would walk the town giving final reminders to traders with goods on the street. And if unpermitted items were still there when they returned they would be removed.

“When the Christmas lights come down we need to tidy up the streets too. We are trying not to be Draconian, but there are issues of fairness and health and safety, and we cannot dilute the scheme any more,” said Mr Cawley.

Chamber of trade president Sue Brown urged those businesses affected to get their applications quickly if they wanted to stay legal.

“Nobody likes to have anything taken away, but people have been trading off highway land for years.

“It is an extra expense, but the law has not changed. The councils and chamber worked hard to get a scheme that only costs a fraction of the former system through planning.

“The paths need to be safe. This all came about because somebody tripped over an advertising board,” she added.

Café main owner Laura Broughton said she faced a £400 “pavement rent” as well as the basic £25 fee, but the six tables and 15 chairs in summer - half that in winter - were an important part of her business. She was already bracing herself for losing passing trade with the closure of Woolworths across the road.

“It is the worst possible time for this to happen,” she said.

Butcher Icarus Hines, whose cheery plastic George figure has been symbolic of traders battles against street good restrictions, is angry at facing the new fees having already been one of the few to pay up for George and a chiller under the former system.

“I have already paid £260 for permission under the planning system. Why should I pay twice?” he asked.

Mr Hines was not surprised at the low numbers applying for permits and sympathised with fellow traders, saying: “The regeneration vision for Cromer included a European-style café culture with tables and chairs. Now that seems to have changed.

“And the credit crunch is the wrong time to lay down more laws to small businesses.”

He added: “Something needs to be sorted out, because I am sick of talking about it and don't want to be just remembered as the man who campaigned for Fat George.”

Neighbour shopkeepers Nick Hadlow and Mandy Forster at the Sandwich Shop and All Things Cake have applied for permits. Mr Hadlow said his outside tables accounted for a third of his seating area. Mrs Forster thinks her advertising A-board just complies with the 2m passing space, having taken away a decorative teapot.

Video Vision boss John Deards however may fight any bid to remove the sales bins outside his shop, because he claims the land is his and not the council's.

To find out more about the street goods permits call the council on 01263 516252.

Advertising boards at the end of Bond Street, away from the shops that owned them, would have to go. Sidestreet shops need to seek permission for boards mounted on buildilngs if they want to lure people off the main street.