Friday, August 24, 2007

A Ridiculous Decision

I'm on my soapbox this morning!

In my previous existence as a secondhand bookseller I attended a lot of auctions. One of these, and by far my favourite auction is J S Auctions near Banbury. They've been fighting a long battle against the local council who feel that an out of town site is not the right place for an auction house to operate. This week they have lost their appeal, meaning that they have to close down their business, putting people out of work and affecting the livelihood of many more. The decision by the council is absolutely absurd and shows a complete lack of understanding of the business. JS Auctions is currently based on a farm where they hold the actual auctions in 2 large sheds, with a huge carpark adjacent. This means you can park right outside the auction and you can drive right up to the sheds to collect heavy or bulky items like furniture or books. They have worked hard over the years to improve the facilities at the site with better parking, new office accomodation etc. It's a lovely set-up and one which they could be proud of. They can easily accomodate the 300 or more people who attend their auctions every other Saturday, with no disruption to locals. It's a great, friendly auction house, run by people who care, and who've worked really hard to build their business. It's one of the best run auction houses I've ever attended and trust me I've been to quite a few!

Cherwell District Council think this kind of huge operation would be much better if it were in the town centre. Now, you're probably not familiar with Banbury, but it's a small market town, with limited parking at the best of times. On a Saturday it is really busy and virtually impossible to find parking. This is not the kind of place where you want to add to the traffic by trying to hold an auction (where the attendees often have large vans to park, and need access to the doors of the auction room to collect things). As an example, there is already an auction house in the centre of Banbury, which holds auctions on a Tuesday. I try and avoid this auction house because you have to park miles away and there is nowhere to stop to collect any heavy purchases. The last time I bought anything there I nearly got a parking ticket when I stopped briefly to load the car with the several boxes of books I had bought. I had no choice. I couldn't carry the boxes to the car so I had to stop temporarily on a double yellow line (that means No Parking, for those of you not from the UK). There was a prowling traffic warden hanging around waiting for just that situation. And that's on a Tuesday! On a Saturday with extra shoppers and extra people you can imagine the chaos another several hundred cars and vans would cause.

Cherwell Council should hang their heads in shame over this decision. They have potentially ruined a great business, cost some lovely people their jobs, deprived hundreds of people of the pleasure of a well-run auction in a great location, and threatened the livelihoods of many dealers.

JS Auctions are hoping to find alternative accomodation to enable them to continue with the business that is their livelihood. I really hope they succeed. The auction world would be a poorer place without them.

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