Garden centre's pick of the bunch on Sundays

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The Independent Online
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BUY a grape for 496 and get a free garden shed. As ploys to beat the laws on Sunday trading go, the cunning plan devised by David Cinavas, who runs Helpston Garden Centre, near Peterborough, takes some beating.

It has left Keith Barratt, Peterborough City Council's head of environmental health services, scratching his head. 'We are looking into the legalities of it,' explains Mr Barratt, who adds, with no hint of relish: 'This could be a very long and complicated operation.'

On Sundays, Mr Cinavas sells individually priced grapes, each accompanied by a free 'offer': a 45 grape comes with a wheelbarrow thrown in, while for 700, you get a marble sculpture of a naked woman. 'It's not pornographic, it's very classical,' says Mr Cinavas.

Under the terms of the Shops Act 1950, the law which largely outlaws Sunday trading, Helpston Garden Centre can sell plants and fresh fruit, but not hedge trimmers or silk flowers.

The grapes are nothing special. 'Ordinary black and green ones,' Mr Cinavas explains, 'though I try to get seedless ones to stop people spitting the pips out all over the place. I agree with keeping Sundays special, but people like coming out for the day and looking round - it's all part of the experience.'

The 1950 Act, due for reform this year, is riddled with anomalies. You can buy gin, but not dried milk. It is possible to pick up razor blades, but only for cutting corns. Cricket balls are freely available, but not a rubber ball - unless it is for use on a beach.

Councils have held back on enforcing the law, pending the outcome of a case before the European Court of Justice involving B&Q and Norwich City Council. Last week the House of Lords agreed with the court that Britain's Sunday trading laws do not breach EC free-market regulations. This leaves the way clear for a clutch of local authority prosecutions and, presumably, a lot of fruit.

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