For 15 months the Gourmet Street Food trailer in Perceval Square has been tantalising tastebuds with delightful local produce food creations.
However its Stornoway centre location is now under threat due to an out of the blue review of the use of Perceval Square, and the popular eaterie may soon be moved out much to the disappointment of hundreds of well-wishers.
Owners Paul and Kelly Widdop have launched a social media campaign, including an online petition boasting 761 signatures, coupled with a bulging Facebook page with messages of support, to stop this happening.
They hope this tide of public support will win them the chance of continuing the business at its Perceval Square location.
Paul said: “The business started on June 7th last year and we went through all the necessary procedures, we were told that we got permission because we were offering something different and nothing was mentioned at that point about wheels, or it being a trailer.
“People want us to be there, we are second on TripAdvisor in the Islands for the best places to eat. No one puts things like Stornoway black pudding and the other Islands’ produce on the map like us.”
The street food outlet supports three - sometimes four - jobs during the season and also brings benefits to other businesses due to the focus on local produce, as well as delivering services such as corporate lunches.
Supporters believe the Council has been unfair in its treatment of the business and there is increasing speculation about the motivations prompting the review of the pedestrian area.
The Local Authority issued a statement defending their position: “The Comhairle’s current policy on use of Perceval Square is that vehicles are only permitted within the area to set up and dismantle. The reason for this is because the Square is a pedestrian area and it was agreed to restrict vehicles on safety grounds, to prevent damage to the paving and to prevent oil/fuel spillages. This policy was agreed in June 2013. It did not however cover trailers.”
The Comhairle is currently out to consultation on a revised policy, prompted by correspondence last August requesting that the area be available for vehicles to trade from. The revision proposes that vehicles and trailers will only be allowed into Perceval Square to set up and dismantle. It is believed the council’s Policy and Resources Committee will consider the matter in December.
Questions put to the council this week have revealed that only two complaints have been received about Gourmet Street Food and that although damage to the square has occurred this is not attributable to the food outlet. The council also stated that consultation on the proposed policy will provide feedback on the European market and weekly produce market at the site.
Fifteen months ago Gourmet Street Food complied with Council policy, a short time hop later and it may not, social media feedback highlights public unease about the situation.
However it seems such criticism has been absorbed, as a Council spokesperson said: “The Comhairle is trying to manage the civic areas, which is predominantly for pedestrian use, in a manner which suits the various cultural and commercial interests of the area and reflects the wishes of the community.”
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has also become involved in the matter, he said: “Like many other people, I am concerned about recent reports that the Gourmet Food Van may be asked to vacate Perceval Square. Paul and Kelly produce high quality food that promotes local produce.
“Over the course of the past month I have taken this issue up with the Comhairle in order to clarify the situation and convey the concerns of traders using Perceval Square.
“There needs to be transparency and openness about the proposed changes to the use of the Square and the effect this will have on businesses.”