10:00 - 19-August-2008
MINISTERS have been urged to act to stop large numbers of charity shops destroying town centres.
Campaigners and business leaders fear some market towns are becoming overrun with stores raising money for good causes and trade is being affected as shoppers go elsewhere.
It is claimed that in some areas charity shops are said to have snapped up "prime locations" in town centres and often undercut mainstream stores and independent shopkeepers. And concern has also been expressed about some charities branching out into selling new goods, such as greetings cards and gifts.
Charity shops raised £110 million last year but the turnover of the sector represents just 0.2 per cent of total UK retail turnover.
Tiverton and Honiton MP Angela Browning said local shopkeepers "are increasingly concerned about the number of charity shops".
"I have several small market towns in my constituency, with populations of between 8,000 and 10,000. No one is saying that there should not be any charity shops – I have opened some – but I have received letters from the chamber of trade in Honiton about the balance that needs to be struck when planning applications are made."
The concerns of local firms has now been passed to ministers to consider what action, if any, the Government can take to ensure town centres are not adversely impacted by large numbers of charity shops. Some traders would like to see changes to the mandatory 80 per cent business rates relief that charity shops receive.
For example, Honiton Chamber of Commerce has backed traders in the town who think the increasing amount of charity shops in the town is making life difficult for businesspeople while threatening the town's reputation as a vibrant shopping area. It says the situation is pushing up rents, which charities with lower overheads can afford to pay.
Much of the focus of the Department for Communities and Local Government has been on protecting high streets from of out-of-town developments, and very little attention has been focused on charity shops.
However, it has now been suggested that councils could even go as far as to "cap" the number of charity shops on high streets.
Mrs Browning said: "The question is how many charity shops can a small town accommodate before the regular traders start to feel disadvantaged? I know that there are trading standards rules on what charity shops can sell, but the traders have a point."
She has now asked ministers to "consider the appropriate number of permissions granted for charity shops to trade in small towns before they start to undermine core businesses".
However, the Association of Charity Shops (ACS) insists that curbing numbers would be unfair. "This proposal would be met – quite rightly – with expressions of horror if it was suggested for any other sector, and there is no reason at all why it should be seen as appropriate for the charity shop sector," a spokesman said.
The ACS denied that charity shops compete unfairly with small businesses or that they "bring down" high streets.
People come shopping in towns such as Honiton because of the wealth of small, independent shops - please no more charity shops! Charity shops are now selling new goods and gift items so they are in direct and unfair competition with our local shops. The charity shops get a huge discount on their business rates and have volunteers staffing the shops. These lower overheads mean they can afford to occupy prime sites in the town centre.
Mrs J Lowe, Nr Honiton
commented on 20-Aug-2008 08:50
Do you agree or disagree with the MP who reportedly said this?
Where do you stand on this?
It was a straightforward question from me, which you've avoided answering. Typical.
It that a defensive response? What do you 'cream off'?
Pardon me? I'm sorry to have to ask, but are you having a bit of a funny turn?
You see, you're not making an sense and I'm a little bit worried about you.
Why does Joey Deacon always struggle with charity transparency and openness questions?