STREET trader Marie Amesbury claims she has been “harassed, stalked, threatened and spat at” for selling ice creams from her trike on Lyme Regis seafront.
And at Wednesday’s meeting of the Town Management Committee she pointed the finger at councillors for failing to make it clear she was “trading lawfully”.
In April Mrs Amesbury applied to the council to sell her ice creams and cold drinks from a tricycle, having originally made an enquiry about getting permission in September 2017.
As she did not hear back from the council, she found out she could operate a business as a pedlar under the Pedlars Act. She had started operating her business in this way but asked the council for a more permanent site in Lyme.
At that time she said she was aware there had been some complaints regarding her operation, with traders raising concerns about her taking trade away from permanent businesses and whether she had the correct hygiene certificates.
Mrs Amesbury said she wanted to work harmoniously with the people of Lyme Regis and the town council, but the council refused her request.
Since then there has been reports of a number of scuffles between traders, resulting in one woman reportedly being pushed to the floor and Mrs Amesbury has taken the matter to the police.
The town council is working with West Dorset District Council and Dorset County Council to control unauthorised trading and a petition has been raised calling for a by-law to be introduced to prevent unauthorised trading in the town.
Mrs Amesbury returned to the council chamber on Wednesday and informed councillors that there was an “ongoing police investigation” and she had been told by PC Rachel Roach, from Bridport Police Station, that she did not need a licence to sell ice creams. However, she was advised not to operate outside existing premises that sold ice creams to avoid further conflict.
Mrs Amesbury was given three minutes in the public form session to state her case.
She said: “What was not made clear at the last meeting was that I currently operate lawfully with a pedlar’s certificate anywhere in the UK. At the last meeting you made a decision based around facts that did not include that. You unanimously decided you did not want my concession on the seafront.
‘Matters have escalated’
“There has been some discord around this and matters have escalated involving the police. I have been harassed, stalked, photographed, spat at, threatened with violence, had people visiting my home and very unkind messages on social media, directly as a result of you not grasping the nettle and putting out publicly some kind of statement that I trade lawfully, giving the impression that I trade illegally, that I don’t have public liability insurance, that I don’t have five star food hygiene, and I am not a bona-fide business but indeed I am and I am asking you tonight to make clear to the residents and business people of Lyme Regis the truth of the situation.
“With the police being involved I am dealing with PC Rachel Roach at Bridport Police Station and there is still an ongoing police investigation about harassment towards me. An individual has been warned on two occasions about harassing me and stalking me which has caused me a lot of alarm and distress and that has included following me, stalking me, saying unkind and rude things and using threatening behaviour towards me and I have been really upset about that.
“I have got an email from PC Roach which says: ‘Interestingly, Marie, I have got to the bottom of this. You do not actually need to have a pedlar’s licence to sell your ice-cream from your trike. Provided you are in West Dorset there is no such thing as a street traders’ licence so therefore, as long as you’re registered as a food company and are approved with your hygiene ratings, you can sell your ice cream with no issue and you don’t even necessarily have to keep moving unless you choose to. Just bear in mind where the shops are in relation to where you set up to avoid any upset or conflict.”
Later in the meeting councillors went into committee to discuss Mrs Amesbury’s statement.
Afterwards, deputy town clerk Mark Green said: “The council has considered its position regarding unauthorised trading on the seafront.
“The committee has agreed to take steps to control unauthorised trading using due process of law, working in conjunction with West Dorset District Council and Dorset County Council.
“The council previously refused Mrs Amesbury’s request to trade along the seafront and in the gardens, but she has chosen to continue trading on land owned or controlled by the town council without the council’s consent. The council has in no way encouraged anyone who may have subsequently complained about her activities.
“The council would not condone any illegal or inappropriate behaviour towards Mrs Amesbury and we understand these matters are now being dealt with by the police.
“The council has received several complaints from local traders and we are aware there is a petition calling for a byelaw to be introduced to prevent unauthorised trading in Lyme Regis.”