‘Too little, too late’ say residents as authorities crackdown on street vendors in Birmingham
After weeks of street vendors plying their trade at night in the Small Heath area of Birmingham, a crackdown has been promised by authorities this weekend against any unlicensed businesses.
Residents in and around Coventry Road have been subjected to loud noise, dangerous traffic congestion and tons of litter left behind each night, and Police and Trading Standards have finally vowed to take action against offenders on Saturday (15 April).
Since the start of the holy month of Ramadan – when the Muslim community fasts from dawn to dusk – a stretch of Coventry Road in Small Heath has mutated into a mass of pop-up street vendors selling everything from food, pillows and bed sheets, energy drinks, shoes, perfumes and a myriad of fashion accessories that is attracting visitors as far afield as Manchester, Liverpool and even London after videos of the stalls were shared on social media platforms.
Despite some vendors operating legally with permits there are serious concerns about illegal vendors who pitch up their stalls on any stretch of free space which has caused a massive rise in traffic – cars and pedestrians – into the area which causes dangerous levels of congestion with some residents claiming that emergency services cannot access streets that branch off the main Coventry Road and public transport is also impacted.
The no.60 bus service that travels down Coventry Road is forced to make nightly diversions by the Bordesley Circus junction to avoid the congestion in Coventry Road.
The bus service diversion means that passengers returning home from evening shifts have their journeys extended as the next bus stop is way past Heybarnes Road in Tyseley and misses all the streets that branch off for Small Heath residents.
Mrs Noor, who has lived in Small Heath for over 35 years, told I Am Birmingham that she is shocked and appalled by the street vendors that congest the pavements every night during a time when the Muslim community is praying and reflecting: “Let’s get one thing clear. These street markets have nothing at all to do with Ramadan. Absolutely nothing.
“Ramadan is about prayer and solitude, about family and community, and about helping people in need.
“These stalls that mushroom every night are all about greed and making fast profits. There is no consideration for the true spirit of Ramadan.
“Ramadan is not about stuffing your face with burgers, driving up and down the streets blaring loud music out of cars, and causing mischief and hurt to people who are trying to sleep at night.
“It’s mostly the youth who’ve turned the place into a night circus. That’s where the problem is. Young men in gangs. Showing-off with mates. Zero care for others. Their behaviour is destroying our area.
“As a woman I feel scared coming home at night.”
A local resident – who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals – told I Am Birmingham that the inconsiderate, selfish and antisocial behaviour is getting worse as more and more young men pour into the area seeking thrills: “It’s frightening. I saw a large group of hooded men who were inhaling those silver canisters and getting high and messing about with some girls. Later a fight started, and pedestrians were running for safety.
“I saw a knife and there was lots of shouting and screaming.
“We need action to stop this dangerous overcrowding that leads to armed young men starting fights.
“The noise is scary and stresses out the families who live here.
“And something needs to be done to end the illegal stalls that sell imitation merchandise. Some of the stuff that’s sold is not even labelled. There’s drinks in plastic packs with no ingredients listed. And let’s not even get into the hygiene side of things. Disgusting!
“And at the end of each night there’s tons of wrappers, cartons and leftover food all over the place which attracts rats.”
Cllr Majid Mahmood, Head of Birmingham Waste Management Services, said: “Our Birmingham City Council street cleaning crews have been busy around the Coventry Road, Small Heath, clearing up the litter that has been created as a result of the street trading that is taking place there.
“Our crews have been busy every day, collecting up to seven tonnes of rubbish each day!
“Teams across the council are working hard to make sure the area is as safe as possible, that all of the traders are operating within the law, and the DVLA are working to crack down on untaxed vehicles parking illegally.
“While we want people to be able to celebrate, we must make sure we are taking care of our communities, respecting our neighbours, and if you’re a trader you MUST follow the rules. For everyone’s sake – please don’t drop your litter. Bin it or take it home with you instead.
“I wish everyone Ramadan Mubarak and as we look forward to the blessed time of Eid I hope that everyone can enjoy the celebrations safely and respectfully, caring for everyone in the community and looking after our shared environment.”
A resident in Whitmore Road spoke about the danger of congestion in the area: “Every night that part of Coventry Road where the sellers open their stalls gets crazy busy.
“The pavements are choked with large crowds.
“The road is bumper-to-bumper traffic. There’s no chance of buses or ambulances getting through that lot. Long wait.
“My neighbour’s elderly mother fell ill the other night and the family called an ambulance which got stuck at the top end of the road. The poor driver tried to get around by mounting the pavement but he had no luck. The pavements were blocked with parked cars, and lots of mini-vans and trailers selling burgers.
“We’ve complained to the police and Birmingham City Council but nothing’s been done. We’re fed up! It’s a living hell here every night.”
West Midlands Police sent out an alert to local residents which promised action: “We’re working with partners to deal with issues arising from illegal street trading on Coventry Road and Ladypool Road during Ramadan.
“We’ve been listening to councillors, MPs, Imans, local traders and residents, who have raised concerns around traffic, noise, litter, roads being blocked and anti-social behaviour.
“Now, local officers will be joining partners from Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards, Environmental Health and Licensing teams on a joint operation which will see them engage with traders, and take action where appropriate.”
However, despite the promise of action, some residents have expressed their frustration at the announcement.
Mr Harrris, from Bordesley Green, told I Am Birmingham: “It took them all this time to come up with an action plan! What? Seriously? Pure genius. And it’s only for this Saturday night into Sunday morning. I read the police alert a few times to let it sink in.
“This is too little, and too late. Way too late. Really disappointed.”
Police promised the crackdown “will continue at other times” beyond the weekend operation but angry locals fail to understand why it took this long for authorities to crackdown on illegal businesses and the antisocial behaviour they allegedly attract.