Family ice cream van operators hold protest next to Hampstead Heath over licensing scheme
- Credit: Archant
“We just want to try and protect our business.”
A family-run ice cream van operator which has operated in Camden and around Hampstead Heath for 30 years are furious at the imposition of a new licensing system which could kill off its business.
Twin Top Ice Cream is run by the Ahmet family. Cengiz Ahmet, who took over from his uncle and has served 99s around Hampstead Heath for decades.
Camden has introduced a trial licensing system across five spots in the borough during August.
Cengiz, who runs seven vans with son Anthony, said: “We have been in the area for 30 years. We have been talking to the council and feel like they’re targeting us.”
On August 8, Cengiz and his seven ice cream vans staged a protest on a pitch where Downshire Hill meets East Heath Road, next to Hampstead Heath – this is one of five areas now licensed to a different trader.
The Ahmets said the licensing will put them into financial difficulty, especially as they are investing in expensive electric vehicles to mitigate environmental concerns – as traditional ice cream vans must have their engine switched on for the freezers to operate.
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Cengiz said: “I have been having real problems. Every single van is a target.”
The problem of ice cream vans idling in Camden has been a controversial one - with the “experimental” licensing scheme introduced after local groups raised concerns about the industry in Camden.
In June, Primrose Hill campaigner Phil Cowan told this newspaper: “People will always want to buy ice creams - I get that. I’m not saying that shouldn’t happen. What I want is for it to happen in a safe way.”
Cllr Richard Olszewski, Camden’s finance chief, said: “This scheme involves the issue of temporary licences to ice cream sellers and is designed to achieve several positive outcomes, including; improved air quality and reduced emissions from engine idling through the ability to run on electric or battery; high levels of hygiene; clearly advertised pricing; the inclusion of healthier options such as frozen yogurt or fruit, and to promote safety for both ice cream sellers and residents.
“If the trial is successful, we will be able to make an informed decision as to whether any of the sites will become permanent for ice cream trading and if they require any further amendments to their location, times or licence.”
The council emphasised the licences awarded for the trial period would not be permanent, and the Ahmet family would be able re-apply should any of the designated areas be licensed permanently in future.