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Council proposals upset kebab van owners

Mixed reactions as 'prohibited streets' are opened to licensed vendors
Robbie Smith on Thursday 9th February 2012
Photograph: Sophie Baggott

Oxford City Council has announced that it will scrap “prohibited streets” for street traders, prompting mixed reactions from Oxford residents.

Currently, traders such as kebab vans can only do business on designated streets, but some have argued that the changes will open up all of Oxford to licensed vendors. This potential for an increase in the number of kebab vans has caused resentment among their owners. One claimed that “more vans are a really bad idea, whoever came up with that idea is bloody stupid.”

He pointed to alleged antagonism between Hussain's and the now absent Organic Burger Van on St. Giles as evidence of the risks of too many vans. Hassan and Hussain were in agreement that they are struggling already due to a combination of the nearby Tesco and Sainsbury's, and later opening hours for outlets such as McDonalds and KFC. Hassan stated,  'I don't want four weeks holiday, but I have to take it, as we're just here for students. No students – no work.”

Among students, reactions were far more positive. One first year commented, “Before I came to Oxford I'd had one or two kebabs, now they're practically all I eat, bring on the bonanza!”

Henry Blauth, a third year Classicist, said, “I fully endorse the celebrated marriage of my two favourite things - kebabs and free market capitalism. I think that this is an opportunity for the crap kebab vans to fall by the wayside - how Hussain's withstood the full frontal Brazilian assault of the incredible Organic Burger Van I'll never know, although it's probably because they didn't sell chips for ages. They misjudged the market. 

'Hopefully the abolition of this frankly medieval by-law will unleash the doors to more portable eating establishments like the sorely missed Organic Burger Van. Who wouldn't want to choose between Fred Wurst sausages on one side and Pork Sword hog roast on the other? Sounds like seventh heaven.”

Samuel Rabinowitz, a third year at Balliol, took a more philosophical approach. He said, “Imagine if Moses and the Israelites had kebab vans when they were wandering around the desert. It would have been much more hygienic than that food from the sky, some of which probably fell on the floor, which was presumably sandy. I applaud Oxford City Council for looking after their Chosen People so well.”

Christ Church and Pembroke Colleges, St Aldate's Church and Commonwealth House have all opposed the move by Oxford City Council. A spokesperson for St. Aldate's Church explained that they “weren't happy with the way trading was going on”, especially as the location of one van is “very close to a number of working buildings.” He pointed out that people worship in the church most weekday evenings and that there are often people blocking the exit owing to  the “great big generator in the way.”

However, Councillor Colin Cook denied that the changes would lead to the feted 'bonanza'. He commented, “We are not proposing to increase the number of street trading pitches currently available and therefore I am not expecting any increase in the number of vans.” Instead, he explained that the changes targeted “problems related to residents not being able to park outside their own homes because a few individuals were effectively using the main road in East Oxford as a garage forecourt running a business selling second hand cars.”

Though he noted that there was an “ongoing issue” for Pembroke and Christ Church over the location of a particular van, he said this was being dealt with, as Council Officers are searching for other possible sites.

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