A popular car boot sale is poised to close down after councillors insisted organisers’ annual licence fee will rise from 2,100 to £7,000.
Bonnie Scotland Promotions runs the market on Sundays at the Omni Centre car park on Greenside Row. Organisers were told they would be liable to pay £9,500 for a licence this year after a mistake by the City of Edinburgh Council.
Last year, a fee of £2,100 was paid – a lower rate than the council’s set amount for city centre markets. The council identified its error when this year’s licence application was submitted – a significantly higher fee than organisers expected to pay and they had not budgeted for the increase.
Director Jim Anderson, speaking at a meeting of the council’s Sub-Licensing Committee, said: “I have been invited here to discuss a reduction – but it’s increasing to £9,500. That really took the wind out of our sails when we got that letter. A licence fee of £9,500 finishes it – there’s not a huge amount of money in it. It’s a car boot sale, it’s not a market.”
Mr Anderson added: “We have had all the road closures and the area has been completely turned upside down. It was agreed that we will go on the way that it was. We traded for 49 weeks last year and we closed over Christmas. We have 120 to 150 cars and it can go up at Christmastime. We are sitting just now on about 150.”
Cllr Neil Ross argued in favour of the full £9,500 not being paid this year. He said: “Given that this is a big gain, can I suggest a compromise that we set a fee at £1 per car? It could be £7,000 for this year with the proviso for the full fee to be paid the following year.”
Councillors agreed to the £7,000 charge but Mr Anderson said: “I will not be going ahead with it.”
The sale has been running since 1991 at Greenside Row. Although the organisers have a long history of holding the popular Sunday events, this is the first year they have been asked to pay licence fees at the city centre rate.
Convener of the committee, Cllr Cathy Fullerton, pointed out that it was a “commercial operation” and that the organisers were required to pay a licence fee. Cllr Fullerton said that the licence being offered at a lower rate than it should have been was “an error on our part”.
It was argued that the committee could show some discretion for the organisers this year, but the authority would not wish to “be seen to be giving them an advantage over other operators”. Mr Anderson said he has since looked at raising the prices charged in order to save the car boot sale from closure – but no decision had been made on a possible reprieve. He added: “We have been here since 1991 and we can have around 5,000 people come along. It’s extremely popular and people will want it to continue.”
A council spokesperson said: “The application was rejected as this reduction is usually only applied to community or charity groups and is at significant cost to the council. The total for this year has, however, been lowered, though the normal licence fee will be charged in future years.”