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Market traders to fight growth in car boot sales

MARKET traders and local authorities are being urged to fight back against the inexorable growth of car boot sales.

Fearing an increasing loss of business, members of the National Market Traders' Federation have been encouraged to report all breaches of planning, trading standards and market licence regulations.

Ray Toller, the federation's director of legal services, says the intention is to make life as difficult as possible for any illegal car boot sales. 'They are creaming off trade from licenced markets. Poor standards are giving all markets a bad name,' he said.

Car boot sales have replaced jumble sales as a major means of charity fund-raising but there has also been a rise in semi-professional trading, which is the source of most complaints.

Ted Johnson, director of planning at New Forest District Council, said that most planners were in favour of tighter controls after widespread protests over noise, inadequate toilet facilities and congestion.

'These are not informal one-off charity events. They are commercial operations which are run in a very calculating manner,' he said.

A large number of commercial car boot sales exploit planning rules, which allow activities on 14 days a year without the need to seek planning permission. Sophisticated operators are aware of the limited nature of local authorities' powers of enforcement.

The traders' federation has bombarded local authorities with requests for stricter planning controls and is demanding that trading regulations are enforced.

Devon County Council, which had to build an access road off a new dual carriageway in Torbay because of the traffic danger from a monthly sale, complained to the Government about the 14-day rule. 'We thought car boot sales would be no more than a nine-days wonder but it has not turned out like that,' Roger Gash, assistant county solicitor, said.

A consultation paper from the Department of the Environment suggested that the 14-day regulation should only be withdrawn on areas designated as sites of special scientific interest. The department said it believed existing regulations gave authorities sufficient powers to minimise disturbance. 'Markets and car boot sales fulfil an economic function. They enable a farmer or other landowner to use land productively, and provide opportunities for small traders who may lack the capital for permanent premises,' it added.

County and district councils are considering their response but are expected to demand that all regular car boot sales are required to apply for planning permission.

Licensed traders from long standing markets feel the semi-professional nature of many car boot sales is beginning to undercut legitimate businesses.

'It is not fair competition. Traders are required to conform with minimum standards but some of the dealers on car boot sales know nothing of trading standards or hygiene legislation,' Mr Toller said. 'Some members may not like the idea of informing on fellow traders but they must decide whether they are prepared to see legitimate, professional traders losing their livelihoods to car boot traders, who, in many cases, are pin-money traders giving the trade a bad name.'