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Burger van licence battle: Trader can keep his pitch of 26 years

Five star hotel claimed Peter and Ann Carter's burger van was a "nuisance"

15 December, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

A burger van owner took on the might of the Town Hall and a multi-million pound hotel chain – and won.

Peter Carter can keep his pitch of 26 years in front of the Montcalm Hotel in Finsbury Square despite the hotel’s claims he was causing a “nuisance”.

Emerging from a bad tempered two-and-a-half hour licence review at the Town Hall on Wednesday night, Mr Carter told the Tribune: “I feel great. The little guy has beaten the big guy.”

Mr Carter and his wife Ann have been trading on the same spot since 1995 and said they never had any complaints before Montcalm opened their five-star hotel last October. He mostly sells to cabbies on weekday evenings.

Then the hotel made a flurry of complaints to Islington Council, claiming the Carter’s were in breach of street trading conditions and that the character of Finsbury Square had “transformed” in recent years.

They claimed the van was too big, was parked in the spot when it shouldn’t be and that it posed a health and safety risk.

Islington Council refused Montcalm permission for the 256 bed hotel in 2014 due to the loss of office space but its decision was overturned by a planning inspector.

The licence review was brought by Islington Council’s street trading team, who argued that the Carter’s had breached parts of their licence agreement.

Representing Montcalm, Jeremy Bark, told councillors on the committee: “Enough is enough.”

He was frequently interrupted by Mr Carter, who did not have legal representation, and two supporters. Mr Carter revealed the reason his wife Ann was not present was because she was recovering from cancer.

“We are perfectly legitimate business that can reasonably expect that business around us comply with conditions,” Mr Bark said.

“Smells that come from the van go into the reception and the restaurant and we get complaints from customers on social media and Trip Adviser.

“The nature of this area now has completely changed.”

He added: “These breaches simply cannot be resolved in any practical way.”

Hitting back, Mr Carter told the hearing: “I know that square like the back of my hand and it hasn’t changed. You have been there 12 months and you are the only reason we are here today.

“You are bullying the small man. I am an ordinary working guy.”

He said the police had been called three times to reports of fighting outside the Montcalm and said that despite some bad behaviour, customers and staff at the hotel liked him and frequently bought his £3 burgers and tea.

Mr Carter explained why he had left the van at the pitch for around three weeks in October as it had been vandalised and he was waiting for it to be fixed. “It was a period when I was all over the place,” he said. “Things were going wrong. I was going to the hospital with Ann. I’ve never done that before to Islington Council.”

Refusing the street trading team’s application to revoke the licence, the panel of three councillors said they accepted Mr Carter’s explanation but said he would have to meet with the team to discuss the size of the van.

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