MR SOFTEE yesterday lost an appeal to keep its ice-cream vans on the road. The Court of Appeal upheld an Urban Council decision to ban the vans under hawker regulations. However, one of the three judges disagreed with the majority decision, and Mr Softee is considering an appeal to the Privy Council. The court held that, even though the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance was passed with the aim of allowing the Urban Council to regulate hawkers, it also allowed the council to ban certain types of hawking entirely. The eight Mr Softee vans operating in urban areas are licensed as itinerant hawkers, which allows them to move around. The council in March 1993 announced it would stop renewing that type of licence with effect from April next year. The Appeal Court upheld the earlier judgment of Mr Justice Keith that the Urban Council's bylaw was made legally. Mr Justice Litton, delivering the majority judgment, said the ordinance made all hawking illegal unless the hawker had a licence. 'Nothing in the ordinance, as I read it, compels the Urban Council to grant licences to make the activity of itinerant hawking lawful,' he said. Mr Softee has 14 vans and eight need Urban Council licences because they operate in the urban area. 'We are running a business that would not be viable without those eight vans,' said Ted Drew, a director of Ng Enterprises that runs Mr Softee. Unless a Privy Council ruling overturns yesterday's decision, or some other solution is found, it would mean the end of a 25-year tradition of Mr Softee vans. As well as running and maintaining the vans, which cost about $500,000 each, Mr Softee makes its own ice-cream and cones at a factory in Sha Tin. 'Even though we've got an inflation rate of nearly 10 per cent over the last couple of years we haven't increased our prices,' said Mr Drew. 'If the economy is in a downturn we think we have to tighten our belts.' Mr Drew said the company felt 'cheated'. 'The Urban Council is using its decision to ban all fully-licensed hawkers as a cover-up for its inability to deal with the vast hordes of illegal hawkers in Hong Kong which have existed for the past 30 years,' he said.