Burger vans are facing the axe in Wolverhampton under radical new plans unveiled today to improve the image of street traders in the city centre.
Bosses want to introduce brand-based stalls of better quality and spread them around the city after the current ones were labelled as ‘tatty’.
Foods on the new street menu could include vegetarian and Caribbean, with a smoothie stall also in the pipeline, while stalls will be spread out as Dudley Street is thought to be too congested.
The council said that having four stalls selling burgers and hot dogs was too many and in a council-led survey only five per cent of respondents believed the current balance of street stalls in the city was right.
They will cut the number down to just one or two, with traders told to sell one of the new lines of food or face being moved out.
Steven Franklin has run Hot Dogs and Burgers outside Marks & Spencer for the past 15 years, with the business in his family’s name since the 1960s.
“We don’t force anyone to buy burgers or hot dogs,” said the 51-year-old Sedgley resident. “If there wasn’t enough work for us then we wouldn’t be here."
One burger van trader, who did not wish to be named, said: “I’m gutted about it. This is my livelihood at the end of the day.”
Fellow trader Trevor Payne, a father of three, said he has been running a van in the city centre for almost two years.
“I am a family man with a daughter who started at university this week to pay for,” he said.
“I am just trying to make a a go of my business so that I can pay my taxes to the council and the government.”
The 43-year-old from Wood Cross added: “My vehicle is immaculate inside and out. The food is good and fairly priced. I and people like me are an asset to Wolverhampton. We bring in customers into the city centre so the council should be encouraging us, not trying to get rid of us. That would not be fair for me or anybody else who runs the vans.”
However traders did welcome the prospect of being given three-year licences, instead of the one-year rolling ‘consent’ basis they currently work on. A six-week public consultation begins today
There are currently nine street stall holders in Wolverhampton city centre, which could increase to 12 under the proposals.
If those selling burgers or hot dogs don’t agree to sell different foods then their licences will not be renewed.
Licensing manager Colin Parr said of the burger vans: “We’ve got four units that offer very similar trade lines in close proximity of each other – it needs to be more diverse. This is about the image of the city.
“They’re visible to people and if you’ve got units that the public believe look tatty – which is what they’ve told us – it doesn’t present a great image of the city.”