Calls for action over Norwich 'chuggers'

David BaleCalls are being made for action over charity workers known as 'chuggers' and unauthorised street traders working on the streets of Norwich city centre.David Bale

Calls are being made for action over charity workers known as 'chuggers' and unauthorised street traders working on the streets of Norwich city centre.

Fears that shoppers are being put off visiting because they are regularly approached has prompted officials at the City Centre Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) to raise the issue.

'Chuggers', also sometimes branded 'charity muggers', are people who ask members of the public to sign up to pay standing orders and direct debits to charities.

But because the practice does not involve any exchange of cash, they do not need a licence from Norwich City Council, which means there is no way of limiting their numbers at any one time.

The matter has been thrust into the spotlight by Stefan Gurney, the Norwich City Centre Partnership (CCP) manager, who pushed for the problem to be tackled at the latest City Centre SNT meeting.

Mr Gurney said: 'I received several complaints from shoppers around Christmas in Gentleman's Walk.

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'They said they felt intimidated by so many different people approaching them in the street and that it had put them off coming.'

Mr Gurney said he had no problems with Big Issue sellers, who were homeless people with their own pitches in the city.

He added: 'We want to look at 'chuggers', unauthorised street traders and pedlars ignoring their licences.

'Under the Pedlars Act of 1871, pedlars cannot stay in one place and must be in perpetual motion.

'Pedlars ignoring their licences have also been a problem in Cambridge, where they were kicked out, with many moving to Norwich.'

Julian Foster, chairman of the City Centre Safer Neighbourhood Team Action Panel (SNAP), said: 'Residents, market traders, shopkeepers and shoppers feel disconcerted that there's so much ill-feeling caused by aggressive sales going on because of pedlars and people are getting fed up with it.'

He said the SNT would first need legal clarification and to get some advice before they could look at how they are going to tackle the problem.

Mr Foster added: 'It's not just a case of being aggressive; we need to get clarification of what the law does allow and to issue some advice to the pedlars and chuggers.'

The 2006 Charities Act introduced clauses that required chuggers to obtain council permits, but these have yet to be enacted.

Meanwhile, Norwich market traders added their voices to concerns and warned that too many people approaching shoppers could put people off visiting.

Mike Read, who runs a fruit and vegetable stall at the market next to Gentleman's Walk, said: 'They are a pain and we call them the time-share touts of Norwich.

'People get fed up trying to walk down Gentleman's Walk, because a lot of people feel embarrassed continually having to say 'no' to them. It's not fair for shoppers to have to fight their way through these people who clog up the street.'

A city council spokeswoman said charities collecting cash in the city had to apply to them to get street collection permits, which are free. This included The Royal British Legion collecting for the Poppy Appeal.

Traders with ice cream or coffee carts also needed to apply to the city council to get a daily consent licence, which costs �15 a day, she said.

Pedlars need to get a licence from the police and that costs �12.25 a year.

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, which oversees 95pc of the organisations involved in street fundraising, has said that most stories of sharp practice were exaggerated, with 'chugging' only accounting for 1.4pc of complaints to the Fundraising Standards Board last year.

The first chuggers took to the streets of Austria in the mid-1990s, when a group of Greenpeace fundraisers realised that no one was answering the phone because they were all outside enjoying the summer sun.

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