Attempt to block Portobello ice cream bid over childhood obesity and 'commercialisation' fears

Concerned residents tried to block proposals for an ice cream van to sell treats on Portobello prom after raising fears over health and childhood obesity.

Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 7:45 am
Updated Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 9:30 am
An ice cream van will sell treats from Straiton Place Park at Portobello

It’s the home of the 99 cone and Edinburgh’s much-loved seaside resort. But concerned Portobello residents have attempted to halt a bid for an ice cream van to sell snacks on the promenade over health and childhood obesity concerns.

Councillors approved a street trader licence for Steven Fotheringham to operate an ice cream van in Straiton Place Park on Portobello seafront. The van, to be operated by Falkirk-based family business Fotheringham Ice Cream will sell ice cream, hot and cold drinks, and savouries such as waffles to seaside revellers.

But the application was subject to public objections from 10 people – as well as Portobello Community Council – with over-commercialisation of public space and health concerns central to the backlash.

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Resident Jenifer Neilson said: “This park is a really small park and it’s the only piece of green space on the promenade.

“This morning there was a play group using that space – it’s supposed to be for the public. This is going to be foods of all sorts and it’s also going to be next to a new gym and there are problems with childhood obesity. It’s very hypocritical to put something there with sweets and all that. It just seems farcical to me.”

Fellow objector Preston Lloyd, said the plans would contribute to the “commercialisation of green space in the Portobello area”.

He said: “The applicant has never submitted any description of how he proposes to get this van in and out of this area of the park.

“This is a small park adjacent to the prom. Already, half of it is covered by a children’s fun fair. I would suggest that there’s very little area left to provide space for further trading units.

“Once the park is licensed for food and catering activities, variations become much easier to be granted – this is the thin end of the wedge.

“I can understand the frustration if someone comes along and says you should not sell ice cream to kids at the seaside, but this could be the thin end of the wedge.”

Mr Fotheringham confirmed he “definitely won’t be selling fish and chips” and told the objectors that he secured the site after winning a contract with the council’s parks team.

He said: “This is a site that the council recommended as a catering unit. We won it because we probably put the most money forward. We have never come up against this before.

“Most of the objections have been combated and hopefully we can sort them out and overcome them. I have a family-owned business and I think Portobello is a great place for an ice cream van. It’s just a good area where the kids are going to be to get an ice cream.”

Cllr Cameron Rose questioned whether health concerns raised by objectors can be listened to. But the council’s lawyer advised the committee to “strongly avoid taking that into consideration” as “it would not really be defensible in an appeal”.

Licensing convener, Cllr Cathy Fullerton, said: “Nothing I have heard suggests that you would not be a fit and proper person to hold that licence.

“Any variation to the licence that we would grant would have to come back to this committee. Given what I have heard, I’m recommending that we do grant this licence.”

Councillors unanimously approved the licence, meaning the van can operate from 10am until 8pm in a specified area in the park. The van will have to be removed every night.