Producing the Goods 2
London Farmers' Markets
Is the law an ass?
In 2001 the planning committee of Haringey Council in north-east London granted permission to London Farmers' Markets to open a farmers' market at Crouch End. LFM is linked to the National Farmers' Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) and runs 13 Certified farmers' markets in Greater London. All food is sold directly by producers or their employees and is grown, reared, picked or produced within 100 miles of the M25.
Despite the planning permission, a market licence, needed to actually trade, was not granted by the Council due to an interpretation of the London Local Government Act 1990. Council officials baffled LFM by suggesting that a farmers' market would be in breach of the Act and a licence was denied. The problem seemed to rest on street traders' needing to be individuals, not represented by a company, which LFM is. There was also a inference that the Farmers' Market would attract trade away from local shops.
The technicalities of the case are mind-boggling and we will not recount them in detail here. But after three years of to-ing and fro-ing, LFM sought advice from the legal department of the legal team at the London Development Agency, which analysed the relevant legislation and gave their support for LFM against the Council, claiming its interpretation was wrong. This advice is exactly that - advice - it is not binding, so Crouch End still has no Farmers' Market. The full text of the LDA's advice can be read here.
The danger, however, with Haringey's continued intractability on the matter, is that other councils in discussion with LFM who wish to establish farmers' markets are anxious that they may also be in breach of the Act, despite the fact that several other councils in London already host farmers' markets. As a direct result of this case, the London Development Agency commissioned research which aimed to quantify the economic benefit of street produce and farmers' markets in four areas of London, which found substantial increases in shoppers and spend in local shops on market day.
An answer for LFM presented itself out of the inconvenience of having to move the very successful Islington farmers' market (the first in London) from its original location to a school ground. This has proved fruitful and workable, not least as the market is on Sundays so doesn't interfere with school life, but makes good use of its facilities for parking and storage, and moves the market from the street and therefore the licencing jurisdiction of the Council. So LFM will leave Haringey to its own devices and is negotiating with a Crouch End school. Watch this space.
Jo Foster, e-mail jofoster [at] blueyonder.co.uk
London Farmers Markets <www.lfm.org.uk>