Harpenden florists told to break 50-year tradition and stop selling Christmas trees outside shop

PUBLISHED: 15:36 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:53 11 December 2018

Reads of Harpenden shop manager Graeme Gardner and Christmas help Shelley Fensom. Picture: DANNY LOO

Reads of Harpenden shop manager Graeme Gardner and Christmas help Shelley Fensom. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Archant

"Devastated" florists were told to break a 50 year tradition and stop selling Christmas trees outside their shop this festive season.

Reads of Harpenden shop manager Graeme Gardner and Christmas help Shelley Fensom outside the store. Picture: DANNY LOOReads of Harpenden shop manager Graeme Gardner and Christmas help Shelley Fensom outside the store. Picture: DANNY LOO

Owners of Harpenden High Street’s Reads were shocked when they were told by Harpenden Town Council (HTC) they could no longer use the pavement outside to hawk yuletide trees.

It is a tradition going back half a century, which Debbie and Graeme Gardner inherited 35 years ago when they took over the business.

Debbie said: “I am absolutely devastated. In all fairness the High Street is struggling and the council are meant to be helping. The whole attitude is appalling. We have been doing this for 35 years and my husband was asking, ‘Why now?’”

Reads received permission from a former officer of HTC for a similar sale in 2012.

Reads of Harpenden shop manager Graeme Gardner outside the store. Picture: DANNY LOOReads of Harpenden shop manager Graeme Gardner outside the store. Picture: DANNY LOO

Debbie added: “We are absolutely disgusted, and it’s supposed to be a time of good will. We have been telling our customers about it and they are all up in arms.

“I am so upset and our customers are so upset, we have been doing this for such a long time - what is wrong with them?”

After Debbie and Graeme complained, they were visited by Harpenden mayor Cllr David Heritage.

He liaised with HTC and secured Reads permission to peddle 12 trees on the space, with the condition they are balanced upright to avoid becoming a trip hazard.

Reads of Harpenden shop manager Graeme Gardner outside the store. Picture: DANNY LOOReads of Harpenden shop manager Graeme Gardner outside the store. Picture: DANNY LOO

However, Reads have already bought 210 trees worth £4,500 and Debbie is worried they will be unable to shift it all with the restriction.

She said at their busiest time they expect to sell 20 each day: “I am not happy with it, what do I do with the rest of them? Are they going to compensate me for the ones we don’t sell?”

Cllr Heritage said the trees and advertisement boards broke bylaws and had attracted complaints: “We visited the florist as we would with any other business or individual that is trading without consent and asked them to no longer place these items on the common land or lean them against the town council chains and white posts. When we visited we spoke to both a male and female employee and requested that the trees and sign were removed.

“Having discussed the matter with the shop owner further, we agreed a compromise with them for this year given that they had invested money in purchasing the trees.”

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