‘People want it to stay’ says owner of Sizzler van at Swan Lake

NILA: Man angry about van being banned from swan lake
NILA: Man angry about van being banned from swan lake

A couple who ran a mobile catering business at Straw’s Bridge in West Hallam have spoken out about being made to vacate the site.

Robert and Karen Fletcher, of Shipley View, said they bought the ‘Sizzler’ van in summer 2014 so they could sell food at the popular beauty spot. They were there for eight months before they were told by Erewash Borough Council in March that they could no longer trade from there.

Mr Fletcher 58, contacted the ‘Tiser following the publication of letters in the paper in recent weeks, including one from the Friends of Straw Bridge group.

He said: “I applied for it (the licence) last July. I had started taking my grandson down there and realised there was nowhere to get a drink or food. I was granted it for 18 months. We had to come off in March while they did a survey, which showed that 78 per cent of people wanted it there. I was told if there was more than 51 per cent they would put it out to tender.”

Karen said: “We were just trying to make a living. We set up just so we could sell there.”

Mr Fletcher said the van is worth £3,000 and is now just left on the drive. He said: “Everybody who came said it was a brilliant idea. It didn’t make us millionaires but it was a wage.”

Phillip Wright, director of operational services at Erewash Borough Council, said: “Although the consultation shows a majority of consultees would either be slightly in favour or totally in favour of having a mobile catering facility I think it needs also to be highlighted that only a very small percentage of the respondents claimed to visit the site to picnic or consume food and drink.

“In addition to this although there is public support there were a large number of comments regarding potential facilities which qualified the support and indicated that such a facility would have to be strictly regulated and supported with high levels of maintenance with regards to waste clearance, litter bin provision and even the type or nature of foods provided.

“It is also important to note that when asked to prioritise future improvements, the provision of catering facilities actually ranked lowest in the six suggested areas for improvement with respondents in the majority preferring improvements to pathways, seating and possible provision of toilets as higher priorities than catering facilities.

“It is also worth noting that there has been considerable resistance from the Parish Council, Ward Members and the Friends of Straws Bridge regarding the siting of mobile catering facilities on the site given that the smells, noise and resultant vehicular traffic movement that would result from the site of such a facility.  I think it is certainly important to consider the impact on the wider West Hallam community and therefore the issues raised by the Parish Council. 

“I would also at this point comment that the Friends of Straws Bridge community group are a key partner for the council in the maintaining and improvement of the Straws Bridge site and a decision to allow mobile catering on the site would certainly cause or certainly create potential working difficulties between the council and the Friends Group.

“Given that the work of the Friends of Straws Bridge has been key to the delivery of the Green Flag status I think it would be unwise for the council to jeopardise this productive working arrangement.  My overall view having considered these points is that the issue of mobile catering facilities for Straws Bridge is a low priority for the council’s green space team and for the council itself, and although there is public support for such a facility it is clear that the respondents’ priorities would rather see more pertinent investment into the site rather than the additional resources that would be required in areas such as cleaning and litter bins merely to facilitate a mobile catering facility.

“My advice at this moment in time is that the council maintains the status quo and that there will be no general permission given for the placing of mobile catering facilities at Straws Bridge.  However, this does not preclude the council from allowing such facilities that might be required to support community-based events run by the council or the Friends of Straws Bridge however such facilities will have to be agreed on a case by case basis.”