The competition for customers has created tensions between Cambridge punting companiesLouis Ashworth

Traditional Cambridge Tours, a Cambridge punting business, has been banned from operating from the land on Garret Hostel Lane where it has been based since 2005.

The city council used an injunction to move the company after accusing it of trespassing, since it owns the land adjacent to Garret Hostel Lane that has been used by the company for the last thirteen years.

Mrs Justice Whipple, who granted the injunction, said that Traditional Cambridge Tours had no licence to operate punt tours from the site or any other sites owned by the council.

The owner of the company, Sam Matthews, said the decision has resulted in the loss of 65 jobs. He told Varsity that Traditional Cambridge Tours is now looking to sell some of their inventory to cover “substantial” court costs.

Matthews claimed that prices charged by other punting companies in Cambridge rose by £5 the day after Traditional Cambridge Tours closed. He said this meant that “the consumer now has less choice and is paying a higher price”. Currently only six companies have licenses to operate on the Cam.

Matthews added that the byelaws that had resulted in his company’s loss of license were drafted by James Mcnaghten, who was appointed deputy chairman of Conservators of the River Cam, the town’s punting authority, last September. Mcnaghten also owns Scudamore’s Punting Company which currently controls around half of the punting market in Cambridge. He has previously dismissed suggestions of conflict of interest.

Scudamore’s did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The news comes after a public spaces protection order (PSPO) was issued by the council in 2016, making touting for punt tours a criminal offence in specified areas of Cambridge, including King’s Parade.

The PSPO also applied to companies like Traditional Cambridge Tours, intending to prevent them from operating from areas where they may have caused disruption.

The city councillor for Newnham, Lucy Nethsingha, told Varsity: “There have been days when it is very difficult to cross [Garret Hostel Bridge] because of the number of tour parties waiting to get into punts for punt tours” and that this route is a “key part of the city’s transport infrastructure”.

The city council also introduced further measures in October last year, when an extra enforcement officer was brought in to deal with illegal touts in the city centre.

During the court hearing, the judge said that the council was entitled to take further action given the various unsuccessful attempts over the years to tackle unauthorised punting and illegal touting in the city.


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Whipple stated: “the council is funded by the public purse. It should not be required to make a succession of expensive applications to court, as and when a fresh trespass occurs, depleting limited resources.”

Councillor Nethsingha said that while she wants to “support small businesses in the city, business do need to operate in a way which respects other citizens and the other activities of the city.”

She added that the punt operators using the site at Garret Hostel bridge caused “numerous problems”, such as blocking the main cycle path from the city centre to West Cambridge.

This new injunction is the first ruling of its kind, and a breach of it will result in contempt of court, and possible imprisonment or a heavy fine.

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