Victoria Park: No free lunch for food trucks as free trial put on ice

Victoria Park: No free lunch for food trucks as free trial put on ice

A TRIAL to waive fees for food trucks operating in Victoria Park this summer has been halted just weeks before it was set to begin.

The town council reacted to the heightened concerns of ‘bricks and mortar’ eateries on Tuesday night by voting to hold off introducing an overarching policy for mobile food vendors.

Councillors instead agreed to hold further workshops with local business owners, recognising the need to balance their responsibility to existing rate-paying businesses with a wish to make the Town of Victoria Park a “food and beverage destination of choice” through “increased vibrancy and activation”.

Under the policy, mobile traders would apply for a vendor’s permit valid for 12 months and at designated trading areas GO Edwards Park, McCallum Park, Harold Rossiter Park, Carlisle Reserve, Parnham Park and Higgins Park.

Presently they have to apply and pay a fee each time they operate on council land.

In a report to councillors, council staff proposed a five-month trial from November 1 of waiving permit fees to maximise the take-up of mobile food vendors.

“This will encourage a greater numbers of traders to the Town and provide the community and the Town with increased opportunity to experience and evaluate the impacts of their trade (negative and positive),” the report stated.

While the policy was brought about by a need to reduce red tape for mobile traders, what was put before councillors at last Tuesday’s meeting contained clear drivers to encourage more regular opportunities for food trucks.

Among its eight aims were to increase vibrancy and activation in open spaces, provide new food experiences for locals, increase the use of public open space and to promote the Town as a food and beverage destination of choice.

The deferral provides some respite for local cafes and restaurants, particularly along Albany Highway’s food strip where times have been even tougher in recent months as Water Corporation works continue to affect roads and parking in the area.

One of the concerns that became apparent was that many local businesses were unaware of the council’s intent to introduce the new policy until only recently, despite it being publicly advertised for three weeks across August and September.

Cr Karen Vernon requested the council defer consideration of the policy in light of the number of concerns expressed from the local business sector.

“The Town has a significant small business community, and the food and beverage sector is a very important part of that,” she said.

“At its heart is the café strip on Albany Highway. In other parts of our Town – Lathlain, Carlisle and Burswood – we are seeing an expansion into food businesses that Albany Highway is so well known for.

These businesses operate side by side, the book store and the bakery, the café and the cake shop, the restaurant and the retail goods store. Their fates are intertwined with each other.”

Cr Jennifer Ammons Noble said there was an underlying tone of fear among local businesses about the food vans plan.

“We have failed to engage fully with our greatest resource, our business community leaders,” she said.

Cr Claire Anderson said an added bonus of listening to concerns of Albany Highway business operators in recent days had been that many had creative ideas to reinvigorate the food strip, which needs a boost to bring back patrons put off by ongoing Water Corporation works.