Fylde MP: We must control number of charity shops on our high streets

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FYLDE MP Mark Menzies hosted a Parliamentary debate on the future of British high streets and raised concerns over the proliferation of charity shops in UK town centres.

During the Westminster Hall debate, Mr Menzies said Britain is “increasingly becoming a nation of charity shopkeepers” and the Government needs to act to address the “unequal balance” between charity shops and small retailers.

The Member of Parliament highlighted the issue as ever greater numbers of charity shops open on Fylde’s high streets and said shoppers were now suffering from a lack of variety, with independent businesses being forced out by national charity chains.

Following the debate, Mr Menzies said: “I believe charity shops have an important role to play in our communities by providing income for worthy causes, places where people can pass on goods which they no longer require and by offering training for those who have been out of work for some time.

“However, there are now 15 charity shops in St Annes and nine in Lytham – with, I understand, two more on the way – and figures show that the number of charity shops nationally increased by 30 per cent between 2008 and 2011.

“Some major national charities’ shops receive up to 80 per cent business rate relief, are staffed with volunteers and are able to sign up to long leases which no new retailers would be able to compete with.

“That means landlords are left to regulate the state of our high streets and are naturally inclined towards tenants who appear a much safer bet. This does nothing for the vibrancy of our high streets and cannot be allowed to continue.”

Mr Menzies told Members he backed new measures including taking urgent action to reclassify charity shops under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 so permission was required to change the use of a shop to a charity shop by a local authority.

He urged the Government to consider reducing mandatory rate relief for charity shops from 80 per cent to 50 per cent and more effective monitoring and enforcement on the restrictions of the sale of new goods in charity shops.

He also called for a wholesale reduction of business rates and a simplification of the system which he said currently “unfairly punishes” property intensive industries.

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