10:06 Wednesday 18 June 2014

Ely willow sculptor Lee Eastwood speaks out over Riverside trading controversy

Written byJORDAN DAY

Lee Eastwood at work on his boat in Ely Riverside. Lee Eastwood at work on his boat in Ely Riverside.

A willow sculptor whose work has become a focal point on Ely’s Riverside says some residents are causing trouble for him by complaining to the council that he is breaking trading laws.

Lee Eastwood, 48, makes everything from willow seats to elaborate hobbit houses on his boat which is moored in Ely’s Riverside.

He has been in the city for around two years, and is currently based opposite cocktail bar, Ta Bouche. He says his business is thriving.

But Mr Eastwood, who is a self-taught willow sculptor, says some residents are accusing him of selling his sculptures on land in Riverside, as well as from his boat and they have complained to the district council on the grounds that he does not have the correct licence to do so.

But the council has confirmed that its officers have found no evidence of him trading on land.

Mr Eastwood, who spent years building his boat, which he now shares with his beloved cat, Weaver, and her four kittens, said: “I love Ely and the majority of people seem to like me being here.

“People are constantly stopping to introduce themselves to me, talk to me and enquire about the sculptures.

“But there are a few people who seem to be going out of their way to make life difficult for me.

“I’ve been reported to the council for trading on land, which I’ve never done. I know what the rules are and I know I’m only allowed to trade from my boat so that’s what I do.

“The council have made it clear what the rules are so why would I purposely go against them?”

He added: “I just find it sad that some people see what I’m doing as a negative thing.

“I’d like to think I bring a bit of colour and individuality to the Riverside – both for tourists and for the people who live here.

“I’m a self-taught willow sculptor and make pretty much everything. I can make around 50 different animals, from dragonflies to horses, and have recently started to make hobbit houses, which are going down really well.

“Ely St Johns Pre-school recently bought one from me for their garden – people love them.

“I’d like to see more craftsmen like myself using the Riverside area. Years ago, there would have been a lot more people like me. I’m just trying to make an honest living.”

Liz Knox, head of environmental services at the district council, said that if Mr Eastwood was caught trading off the land in Riverside he would be forced to apply for a special licence, which could cost around £3,000.

But she said: “The council has no evidence that any of the willow pieces are being traded on the land at the Riverside – therefore there is no requirement for a licence to be sought.”

She added: “Shops, cafes and restaurants throughout East Cambridgeshire are required by law to pay business rates and tax on their premises and the goods they sell – these rules are in place for everyone.

“As a local authority, if we have evidence that anyone is carrying out a licensable activity such as street trading then, like any other business, they must comply with the law and obtain the correct license.

“Our aim is to create a vibrant and exciting riverside for residents, visitors and businesses.”

Latest News

  1. The East Anglian Air Ambulance was among the emergency services which fought to save Pasha. Soham student Pasha Clark, 16, died after taking overdose, inquest hears
  2. Cllr Ashley Walsh. Picture by Richard Patterson Cambridgeshire police criticised for recruiting volunteer for post which 'looks like a job'
  3. Enjoy a guided historic walk around Ely
  4. Celebrating the importance of the River Great Ouse at Ely Museum
  5. Yellow Flag Iris and cottage in backround early on a peaceful morning 24th May 2010 at the village pond Comberton. Picture by Nigel Palfrey South Cambridgeshire scores highly in national survey on quality of life - plus results for Cambridge, Saffron Walden, Newmarket, Ely, Huntingdon and Haverhill