UP with the lark come rain or shine they are selling their wares before the clock strikes nine and the shop shutters begin to rise.

But Swindon street traders will soon be a thing of the past because Swindon Council’s regeneration plans have no place for them in the town centre.

Now residents have hit back with a petition to keep the likes of Lisamarie’s Donuts and the Flower Barrow trading.

Flower Barrow owners Beth Howes and Jackie Clark have gathered more than 1,000 signatures alone, a sign they say shows they deserve to remain doing the job they have done for 25 years.

Beth, 49, said “The council don’t want us here because they are changing the image of the town centre, but I don’t see how a stall selling flowers could do anything but attract customers.

“We’re not bringing the area down, we’re not unsightly and we have been here 25 years.

“If we are forced to move we’ll not last a year.”

The pair claim they were originally offered a free-standing secure unit under the canopy in The Parade but after the regeneration plans developed, they were told the unit would no longer be built.

“The problem with that is that we hadn’t thought of a contingency plan,” said Jackie.

“We were told in black and white the unit was ours so we thought our future was secure.

“Now it’s just days until we have to move and we have nowhere.”

Swindon Council has suggested to the pair that they trade from the former Post Office site by Swindon Bus Station, but Jackie and Beth said without the passing trade the business they have worked so hard to build could fail.

“We just won’t get any footfall there,” said Jackie.

“The great thing about being in the parade is that customers are always passing and most people know where to find us. Take us away and we just won’t last.”

Barbara Mazzotta, who runs Lisamarie’s Donuts, said she will have to be physically removed from the site as she has no intention of leaving. She said: “This is my livelihood.

“The empty shops around here are so expensive we couldn’t afford to rent one and I don’t see the council dropping the rates.

“I can’t understand why they have a problem with us.

“If the public didn’t like me being here I wouldn’t have been able to stay in business for 14 years, so I can’t see where the reasoning is behind this.”

Saturday’s shoppers agreed. Phil Bright, from Highworth, once worked on Flower Barrow. He said: “It’s someone's livelihood at the end of the day and the council should be supporting small businesses not making them move somewhere where business will suffer.”

Shaw Ballard, from Stratton, said: “If you take away the street traders you will be taking away part of Swindon’s character. For one thing I think the people who shop in Swindon should be consulted before decisions like this are made because these are big decisions.

“Once we had a canal running through here, that was taken away and now the council want it back. Take the street traders away and it will only be a matter of time before the council will want them back too.”

One elderly shopper, who didn’t want to be named, said: “I buy my flowers off the flower ladies and would hate to see them go.

“There are not many shops anymore who make you up a bouquet while you wait and you certainly can’t get that service in the supermarkets.

“It’s not nice to push them out. It’s a sad state of affairs.”

Daniel King, 25, who lives in the town centre, said: “I think this move will ultimately strip the character out of our town centre.

“Sadly, I don’t think for one minute people from Chippenham or Calne or Lechlade will now be driving into Swindon to shop because these traders are going – live and let live, that’s what I say.”

But one woman, who did not want to be named, said the decision to stop traders selling in the street should be made on a case by case basis.

“I don’t think you should just put a blanket ban on all traders,” she said.

“I do agree that there are one or two street traders that are a bit tacky for the town centre, but then you have others which make it a more colourful place.

“If the council is going to change the rules, they should do it judging each case separately.”

We have tried to help – council

IT was six months ago when Swindon Council’s licensing committee made the decision to “tidy up” the town centre in readiness for the regeneration.

From March 31, street traders will be unable to ply their wares along Regent Street, The Parade, Bridge Street and Canal Walk.

The Adver reported on Saturday that some traders have said they will defy the ban.

A council spokesman said that traders had been aware of the ban when the decision was made.

He said: “We do understand the effect this will have on the three traders concerned which is why we have given them a huge amount of notice and tried to help with advice about alternative sites, if we’ve been asked.

“The flower seller in The Parade has just put in a planning application to trade from the other side of the underpass from The Parade, for example, but we have not had any other applications from the other traders.

“This is all about improving the shopping centre and the experience of shoppers and is supported by the majority of businesses in the town centre who have made it clear to us that they support what we are doing.

“We believe the decision is right and will ultimately make the town centre a more attractive place to be.”