Controversial changes to street trading in St Albans city centre have been approved, despite warnings the plans could put traders out of business.

At a meeting of the Strategy and Resources Committee on Thursday (June 27), councillors voted by a margin of 12-2 in favour of a 12-month pilot scheme that will expand the number of market stalls in the city centre from six to 10, while also replacing existing street trading licenses with new market licenses.

Opponents of the plans say that the increased fees will put the existing traders out of business. 

Currently, traders pay just £1.58 per day for their stalls, but under the new licence this will gradually increase, eventually reaching £15 on Mondays and Tuesdays, £30 on Thursdays and Fridays and £36 on Sundays.

Cllr Simon Grover (Green) opposed the plans, arguing residents have not been consulted properly and that the changes will damage the livelihoods of existing traders.

The plans are partly motivated by a desire to boost the council's coffers, with the changes estimated to bring in an extra £40,000 a year in fees.

But Cllr Grover said: "This is a big, big change and we need to consider if it's really worth it for the sake of raising £40,000. 

"People have expressed their concerns and we need to listen to them, rather than pushing ahead and telling them 'we're right, you're wrong'."

A council spokesperson insisted the plans had been "carefully considered" and that it was a pilot scheme which would be subject to monitoring over the coming months.

Other opposition was raised by traditional high street businesses, who fear that the addition of up to four new traders represents unfair competition.

But the plans were defended by Cllr Robert Donald (Liberal Democrat) who said that dissenters were "making a mountain out of a molehill" and insisted that he would not be backing the proposals if any of Cllr Grover's concerns were valid.

His fellow Liberal Democrat Cllr Lynn Cunningham went further, saying: "If a business can only exist paying £1.58 per day instead of the market rate, maybe they should reconsider their business models rather than saying it's the council's fault.

After being approved, the changes will now be trialled for 12 months before being debated further.

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Chris Traill, strategic director for community and place delivery at St Albans City and District council said: “The changes to street trading in the city centre have been carefully considered at both the March and June meetings of our Strategy and Resources Committee. 

“Our councillors were provided with two reports outlining the proposals and have had intensive debates about them.  

“The proposals were publicised to city centre businesses and councillors were made aware of all the feedback received. 

“Indeed, the committee was responsive to the concerns that have been raised and taken appropriate action. 

“This is a pilot scheme and we will monitor it closely in the months ahead to assess its impact.  

"All feedback will be considered before any decision is taken on whether to make the change permanent.” 

Cllr Grover is the Green Party candidate for this week's General Election. He will stand against Daisy Cooper (Liberal Democrat), James Spencer (Conservative, Sophia Adams Bhatti (Labour), Dafydd Morriss​ (Heritage Party) and Stewart Satterly (Social Democratic Party).