A COUPLE are having to move their Christmas stall in Witney to make way for a new restaurant.

Rachel and Raymond Pearson, both 47, have run their festive business selling seasonal wrapping paper and cards in the town centre for more than two decades.

For the past few years the couple have set up their stall on a rented pitch outside the old post office on the High Street, but now a restaurant has applied to put tables and 26 chairs on the spot when it opens its new diner next month.

The couple, who also run the Deluxe Diner catering stand next to NatWest bank on Welch Way say they feel they’re being squeezed out.

Mother-of-two Mrs Pearson who lives with her husband in Bloxham near Banbury, said: “We feel they’re trying to get rid of us really.

“It’s a lovely stall and it opens right up so people can access it. We do present our stall well, it’s first class.”

She added: “A lot of older people and disabled people ask me each year when we’re going to open the stall again. They like it because they can come and have a chat and because it’s easy for them to get their wheelchairs around the stall.

“In recent years we’ve been competing with the 99p Stores on High Street, but we still do okay because of loyal customers.”

West Oxfordshire District Council council said the couple can apply for another pitch next to their catering van, but the spot does not have a street trading licence, so a consultation would have to be carried out and cycle stands moved.

Mrs Pearson fears the Welch Way spot would not be suitable.

Council spokeswoman Carys Davis said the couple were given six month’s notice that the High Street pitches had to be moved and they raised no objection. She added: “The Christmas paper stall trades for a short period each year and has only been trading in front of the old post office since it closed.

“No objections were made to Bill’s restaurant’s planning application to use the outside area throughout the year for tables and chairs.

“The stallholder was assisted by the council with her new street trading application on Welch Way for Deluxe Diner and this included the installation of a street power supply free of charge. We are happy to advise the stallholder on any future applications for the Christmas stall.”

Alex Smith, representing Bill’s, said the restaurant chain has been granted a licence to serve food and drink at the former post office and is expected to open on September 7.

It will have space for 146 covers and will serve lunch, dinner and afternoon tea.