Ice cream trader next to Hampton Court Palace 'lost half' his business overnight due to council blunder

Calogero Galletta at Richmond Council's licensing hearing on May 23
-Credit: (Image: Richmond Council)

An ice cream trader next to Hampton Court Palace has said he lost half of his business overnight due to a council blunder over the hours he can operate. Richmond Council licensing officers agreed to let Calogero Galletta operate for extra hours at a pitch on Hampton Court Way in 2019, after they became available, but was told four years later this was a 'miscommunication'.

The council granted separate street trading licences to three mobile ice cream businesses to operate at different times on the pitch in 1996. Separate licences were given to Giuseppe Smeraglia and Lorenzo Galletta allowing them to trade on alternate weeks each month, excluding one Sunday each. Carlo Marchese was granted a licence to trade on the two remaining Sundays every month. Mr Marchese's licence was later passed to his daughter Carmela Cavallino after his and her brother's deaths.

The council was asked to transfer Mr Smeraglia's licence to Mr Galletta's son Calogero after he retired in 2019. Although this was refused, the council said the licence would not be advertised and Mr Galletta could use the pitch at these hours. A fresh council report said that while licensing officers allowed this arrangement, and the authority places 'no fault' on Mr Galletta, he 'did not have the legal right to acquire the site' and anyone could apply for it, which Ms Cavallino later did.

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Carmela Cavallino with her brother Francesco Marchese at the Richmond Council's licensing hearing on May 23
Carmela Cavallino with her brother Francesco Marchese at the council's licensing hearing on May 23 -Credit:Richmond Council

The council advised Mr Galletta and Ms Cavallino it would need to advertise the pitch at these times following her request, which they then both applied for. The council's licensing committee met to discuss the applications on May 23.

Mr Galletta told the hearing emails from the council clearly stated in 2019, when he took over the business from his dad, that the licence would 'not be put out to tender' so he could trade at Mr Smergalia's hours. His family's business has been trading at the site for 53 years.

Mr Galletta said: "My natural assumption was I carry on as I am and, obviously, we’re now four years down the line and are being told by the council it’s a mistake, and this is the process, I accept that, but obviously I’m not happy about it because overnight I’ve lost 50 per cent of my business just by what I personally feel was an error on the council’s side… I wasn’t really given the full facts of how that licence should have been put out."

Lib Dem councillor Rob O'Carroll said the council understands he has been 'operating in good faith since 2019 and this is no fault of your own, that there was a miscommunication'.

Ms Cavallino claimed her dad previously said if Mr Smeraglia or Mr Galletta stood down, it would 'only be fair that he then took over to make it easier as well and fair on the days', which is what she applied for. She said she is 'passionate' about the pitch and her family's business has been trading there since 1960.

Ms Cavallino added she would like 'the opportunity to have some part' of the licence previously held by Mr Smeraglia, after realising it was not in Mr Galletta's name. She told the commitee: "I’m going to leave it into your hands to make this fair and I’d like to carry on with my dad’s legacy and the family business and expand, like we’re all trying to expand."

The committee decided to divide the hours equally between Mr Galletta and Ms Cavallino. This means Mr Galletta can trade at the pitch every week except the first two Sundays of each month and the six days in between, which is when Ms Cavallino can operate there. The committee said the decision is the 'fairest distribution' of the empty licence and removes 'the need for a rota' between Mr Galletta and Ms Cavallino.

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