Birmingham street traders threaten legal action over new rules on what to sell

Street traders in Birmingham are threatening legal action over a new city council policy that would require stalls to sell goods not already available from shops.

Birmingham Street Traders Association (BSTA) said it is challenging Birmingham City Council’s new rules which requires street stalls to sell “innovative products” which it defines as “goods that are not regularly available within the high street market place”.

BSTA says that, if implemented, many existing stall holders who have been in place for decades offering popular, traditional market products, may lose their pitch as part of the newly introduced annual application process.

The group has instructed solicitors Simpson Millar who have issued the city council with a letter before action ahead of a planned application to the High Court for judicial review.

Dan Rosenberg, a public law solicitor at Simpson Millar, said: “Street traders have been a fixture of Birmingham’s streets for many years, and our clients are some of the longest standing members of that business community – some selling hot meals including jacket potatoes or Mexican food, and others selling seasonal goods such as umbrellas, hats, scarfs and gloves.

“In some cases, the stall owners we represent have been operating in the local area for many decades, during which time they have built a significant, loyal customer base.

“For almost all of them their job is a part of their identity, and many of them come from families that have a history of market trading for generations.

“Despite all of these businesses proving viable before the pandemic, there is a risk that they will be caught by the new criteria of requiring innovative products, and many are now gravely concerned about whether they will lose their pitches as part of the newly introduced annual review.”

The proposed legal action is being spearheaded by independent florists and tourist souvenirs sellers Allan and Samantha Poole – the chair and secretary of the BSTA respectively – who have one stall at the junction of New Street and the High Street, and another on Corporation Street.

They said: “We have tried time and time again to engage the council in meaningful conversation about the new policy, which if implemented would have a hugely detrimental impact on the sustainability of Birmingham-based street traders.

“Their actions will cause irreparable damage to the soul of our city and threaten the livelihoods of many long-standing stallholders.

“We are very sad to have reached a position where we are forced to pursue legal action, but we feel we have no choice.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “We will robustly defend our position against any challenge but given the start of this legal process, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”