SOUTH Gloucestershire Council has been forced to apologise after an ‘administrative error’ meant a licence for a controversial car boot sale in Winterbourne was renewed without a planned hearing going ahead.

Members of the public and police were due to speak out about the alleged heavy-handedness of marshalls at Trench Lane car boot sale at a meeting today.

But they were turned away when the authority’s licensing sub committee was informed that organisers of the sale had been granted a licence on January 5.

Licensing officer Christine Clare told the meeting: "A letter has been sent out, this was an error, but it does mean that the application has been determined and therefore a hearing is not necessary today.

"This was an administrative error and we apologise."

In a report to the committee, the council said the car boot sale could be closed down following a catalogue of complaints that buyers had been subjected to insulting, threatening and abusive behavior by stewards.

Roy Turley, who was at the meeting to give evidence, claimed a marshall had spat in his face when he took his four-year-old grandson to the sale last October.

"They said I was abusive but I had only just driven in there and parked," said Mr Turley, from Ashley Hill in Bristol.

"I was just going to take my grandson for a walk around but they told me to go or they would give me a hiding."

Mr Turley, who owns Bristol Hygiene Services, accused the council of not listening to people’s complaints.

"I thought I would come here today and the council would listen but it is obvious they council is not listening any more," he said.

Chairman of the licensing committee panel, Cllr Ian Blair, said he had not been made aware that a licence had already been granted. "This panel came with the expectation of hearing an application," he said. "It has resulted in the fact that a hearing is not required."

Cllr Colin Hunt said the letter of consent could not be retracted, even though it was sent in error.

He added: "It is out of our hands."

Applicant Joan Mann and her family were present at the hearing. Their solicitor David Fletcher said they were happy to add two conditions onto the licence ensuring all stewards are fully trained and a complaints procedure is put in place.

The licence will be reviewed again next year.