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Five Camden ice cream van sites earmarked in bid to tackle unlicensed trading

PUBLISHED: 13:10 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:28 04 June 2020

An ice cream van parked next to a sign stating

An ice cream van parked next to a sign stating "no unlicensed ice cream trading". Primose Hill resident Phil Cowan holds up a placard in protest while a mum and daughter watch on. Picture: Phil Cowan

Phil Cowan

Camden Council says it is clamping down on contraband Calippos as it prepares to introduce an “experimental” licensing system for ice cream vans “in the coming weeks”.

Phil Cowan protesting near Primrose Hill Park. Picture: Phil CowanPhil Cowan protesting near Primrose Hill Park. Picture: Phil Cowan

The battle to regulate the ice cream trade has rippled through the borough for years, with unlicensed gelato vans known to operate in Primrose Hill, Hampstead, Camden Town and Covent Garden.

Under rules established in 1990, itinerant ice cream vans are allowed to trade for 15 minutes at one spot in one day, but with rule-breakers only facing an £80 to £150 fine - balanced against the lucrative offerings of summer sales - the council admits this means its current power is “limited”.

It plans to license specific sites, revenue from which it says will be spent on the more robust enforcement and policing of illegal traders.

The move was put on ice due to the pandemic but it will be “back on track” once pressure on resources from the Covid-19 response is eased.

The ice cream business can be lucrative in the summer. Picture: Polly HancockThe ice cream business can be lucrative in the summer. Picture: Polly Hancock

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The five sites identified for the trial are Camden High Street, outside JD Sports; Albert Terrace; Downshire Hill junction with East Heath Road; Russell Square junction with Woburn Place, and Neal Street pedestrian area, outside Urban Outfitters.

Cllr Nadia Shah, Camden’s chief for safer communities, said lengthy spells of summer sun spelt “regular visits” by ice-cream vans “illegally trading and parking unlawfully”.

Of the repeat offenders, Cllr Shah said punishments of fixed penalty notices and penalty charge notices were too “low” and act as a “limited deterrent” against monies to be made.

Primose Hill resident Phil Cowan has campaigned for years for better regulation and a reduction in pollution.

He is encouraged by the imminent rollout of the council’s new licensing system but has become particularly concerned during the pandemic over what he sees as a higher public health risk posed by unlicensed traders and last month staged a protest near Primrose Hill park.

“People will always want to buy ice creams - I get that,” Phil said.

“I’m not saying that shouldn’t happen. What I want is for it to happen in a safe way.”


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