Ice-cream trader says situation is ‘farcical’

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A businesswoman whose ice-cream van was banned from a north Northumberland village has branded further delays in her appeal as ‘farcical’.

Helen Smith, who trades as Simply Delicious, says she has lost more than 150 days of work since being told by Northumberland County Council that she could no longer park up in Alnmouth.

Mrs Smith, from Shilbottle, had to apply to the authority for a new licence to operate from her usual pitch on Riverside Road, but it was refused inJune amid a flurry of complaints from villagers on highway safety grounds.

She launched an immediate appeal, which opened before a committee earlier this month, only for it to be adjourned to a later date.

But Mrs Smith says she received a phone call last Wednesday from the officer handling her case, telling her that road safety objections from the county’s highways department were ‘being withdrawn’.

And she added that, unknown to her, the appeal hearing had been rescheduled for today – only to be cancelled again when she complained that she had not been informed.

Mrs Smith said: “I haven’t been able to trade in Alnmouth since March 23 because of this.

“Despite an objection by county highways, there has been no evidence produced of my van being a danger to road safety. I asked for them to provide evidence at my first appeal hearing and I’m still waiting.

“To my surprise, I received a phone call last Wednesday, from the officer dealing with my appeal, telling me that the highways had withdrawn its accusation that my van was a danger to other road-users. So if it’s not highway safety that I’m now being judged on, what is it? Impact on other traders?”

Mrs Smith says she then found out on Monday, from a third party, that her rescheduled appeal hearing was due to take place today at the Hindmarsh Hall in Alnmouth.

“I was not imformed by the county council that a new date had been set for the hearing,” she said. “I only found out through a third party.

“It’s a farcical way for the county council to go on, but this isn’t funny. This is my business they’re dealing with.

“I’ve done everything the council has asked of me. They told me to stop trading in Alnmouth, so I stopped. I applied for a licence, which was refused, so I appealed.

“From day one, they have moved the goal-posts. It’s excuse after excuse.”

Northumberland County Council declined to answer whether the highways objection had now been withdrawn, or whether it failed to properly notify Mrs Smith of the the rescheduled appeal hearing.

A spokeswoman said: “It was proposed that the sub-committee which was originally held on August 14 was to reconvene to consider the application on August 30.

“At the request of the applicant, the meeting will now not take place and a new date will be set to consider the appeal.

“The original grounds for refusal related to highways matters and the presence of existing like provision within the Alnmouth vicinity.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss the case further while the formal appeal process is ongoing.”