When does the Ice cream van come

Have you seen an ice cream van recently? Didn t think so | The

Little-known regulations governing mobile food vendors were earmarked to be scrapped as part of the Government’s drive to cut red tape, and had been highlighted by David Cameron as an example of the state’s unnecessary interference in business.

But discussions with the industry are likely to lead to fresh tinkering with the rules, a change to primary legislation, and additional cost to the public purse of up to £300, 000 a year.

The most significant planned change, from the point of view of parents as well as Mr Whippy, is an extension of the hours during which vans can broadcast their tinny versions of Greensleeves onto the streets.

Under the Control of Pollution Act 1974, it is an offence to operate a loudspeaker outside the hours of noon and 7pm if it is “fixed to a vehicle which is being used for the conveyance of a perishable commodity for human consumption”.

A statutory Code of Practice on Noise from Ice-Cream Van Chimes Etc. introduced in 1982 set out further rules. It tells drivers not to play bursts of music lasting more than four seconds, more than once every three minutes, while they are stationary, when in sight of a rival vehicle, within 50 metres of a school or place of worship and more than once every two hours in the same length of street.

It was highlighted in last year’s Red Tape Challenge as a piece of “potentially unnecessary regulation on business” that could be safely done away with.

Rather than scrapping it entirely, the preferred option is to “keep the code but make it less restrictive”.

This could mean allowing chimes to sound for up to 12 seconds at a time because the current restriction is “not always complied with” and because “it is difficult to play a recognisable tune in four seconds”.

Vendors would also be allowed to chime every two minutes while driving, and once when stationary.

The document also proposes changing the hours between which it is an offence to sound the chimes: “For example to before 10.30am or after 8pm’.”

Industry representatives told the government that the early start would allow mobile sandwich vendors to sell their wares before lunchtime on industrial estates.

“The industry have also expressed support for a later end time as this is the time of peak ice-cream trade, as well as arguing anecdotally that children’s bedtimes are later than they used to be.”

But this would mean changing primary legislation and so is "likely to take some time".

But the proposed changes could also increase the estimated £260, 000 annual cost to local authorities of dealing with complaints. Latest figures suggest half of councils receive complaints about ice cream vans every year, mostly about the volume and duration of chimes.

If the vans are allowed to sound their chimes earlier in the morning and later in the evening, “the combined additional cost to both local authorities and local residents of the ‘worst case scenario’ of a doubling of incidents would therefore be in the region of £150, 000 - £300, 000 a year”.

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