Campaign to save popular car boot sales at Southsea seafront

ANGRY From left, Dorothy Ince, Gary Bowman, Tony Smith, Cllr Margaret Foster, Jane Peters, Vicky Bowman and Cllr Jackie Hancock protest against the end of car boot sales.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (121212-048)
ANGRY From left, Dorothy Ince, Gary Bowman, Tony Smith, Cllr Margaret Foster, Jane Peters, Vicky Bowman and Cllr Jackie Hancock protest against the end of car boot sales. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121212-048)

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OUTRAGED traders and residents are campaigning to save charity car boot sales that were recently axed by the Ministry of Defence.

More than 1,000 signatures have been collected as part of a petition to bring back the weekly summer events previously held on the MoD’s Clarence playing fields at Long Curtain Road, Southsea.

The MoD claimed the move was a result of the lasting damage the sales – in aid of United Services Sports Club (USSC) – caused to its sports pitches, as previously reported in The News.

But a group of angry residents, including city councillors and traders, dispute these claims and have launched an appeal to save the sales.

Cllr Margaret Foster, who ran a car boot from the event for over 20 years, said: ‘The sales didn’t cause any more damage to the field than the Royal Navy playing rugby or landing a helicopter on it, which is what its used for now.

‘And there was never any rubbish or litter left there because the organisers had their own clear-up squad.

‘Everyone loved the sales down here and taking them away has ripped the heart out of the community.

‘The people of Portsmouth do everything they can to support the navy, it’s time for the navy to return that favour and support the community.’

The campaign urging the MoD to do a U-turn on its decision was started by resident Sadie Richards, and has quickly grown in strength.

Fruit and vegetables trader Tony Smith, 54, of Chatsworth Avenue, Cosham, had a stall at the event for nine years.

He said: ‘The boot sale was everything to my business – it was my livelihood for 12 to 14 weeks in the summer. Without it I could lose up to a quarter of my takings.

‘I’ll also have less stock to buy which means the price of stock will go up, and the two staff that I employ on a Sunday will be out of a job.

‘But the biggest travesty is the local charity will lose out, that’s the sad thing.’

Profits from the events, including entry and stall fees, were previously donated to the USSC. Last year more than £35,500 was raised for the cause.

Campaigners also argue that the sales bring extra revenue to the area during the summer months – a vital source of income for many nearby businesses.

Gary Bowman, 51, of Dickson Close, Buckland, runs the Big Wheel Cafe opposite the site with wife Vicky, 34.

He said: ‘People travel from as far as London to come to the sales, and then they stay in the area for the rest of the day and spend money in all the businesses.

‘Shutting it down will have a huge knock-on effect on us all – we’ll lose thousands of pounds.’

The petition can be signed at the cafe.

Portsmouth City Council banned car boot sales on Castle Field last year for being ‘too downmarket’.