A bookshop in Newport has been ordered to pay out “hundreds of pounds”, for leaving a small cardboard box of second-hand books outside on the pavement.
Margaret Norris who runs the shop Books 2 Love in Pyle Street, Newport was looking forward to celebrating the shops 10 year anniversary on the 1 October.
She told Isle of Wight Radio that officers, who she says told her they were from Island Roads, said that she must pay for the boxes. She says they have been there for the last ten years. According to Margaret, she must pay £400 a year for the boxes, which contain £1 second-hand books, on the grounds that they are considered to be “street furniture”.
Island Roads said,
“Island Roads is not responsible for the licensing of street furniture under the Highways Act. This is the responsibility of the Isle of Wight Council as the Highways Authority and their licensing department as the council’s statement clearly indicates.”
The Isle of Wight Council has now clarified that its own Highways Licensing officers were the ones to approach the book shop team.
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Margaret told Isle of Wight Radio:
“I said I didn’t agree with them, we have happily been putting them out there for ten years and I will be taking this up with the MP because it’s really detrimental to our business. Obviously, on wet days we cannot have a cardboard box outside, so it’s only on a select number of days a year anyway that we can put it out and we notice that when the boxes are not outside, the takings drop considerably. Seeing as this Government has pledged to help small businesses I approached Bob Seely to see if he could bring some light on this ludicrous decision to now have cardboard boxes designated as street furniture.”
The shop has also offered work experience to over 100 young people with social and educational needs and volunteer placements for many older people over the ten years they have been open.
Bob Seely MP said:
“Frankly this is daft. If these were stalls or permanent, Island Roads would have a point. But they are cardboard boxes, they are only out when it is sunny, and they take up next to no space.
“Island Roads are doing a good job for the Island, but in this instance they are wrong. They should be finding ways to support small businesses, not finding was to put additional charges on them.
“I have written to Island Roads asking them to reconsider.”
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The bookshop still plans to go ahead with its 10th-anniversary plans on October 1, with cake, chocolate and much more going on in the back of the shop for customers to come and enjoy.
A council spokesperson said:
“There is requirement under the Highways Act that any premises placing items on, under or over the highway (including pavements) must gain permission from the local Highways Authority to place those items on the road. The licensing section carries out this activity on behalf of the council and the fees are £225 to process the application and a land hire charge of £50 per square metre.
“The fee covers the cost consulting with agencies such as fire and rescue, Island Roads and Environmental Health, to make sure that what the premises plan to do does not cause an obstruction to pedestrians such as disabled wheelchair users, people with vision difficulties or people with prams.
“We continually monitor premises to ensure that compliance is maintained as public safety is paramount.“
The Isle of Wight Council has since told Isle of Wight Radio that no application has yet been made to its licensing team and until one is made, it cannot say how much the boxes would cost or if they would be allowed.