Calls for new limits on charity stores

Chamber of trade groups from across Northumberland came together last week to address ‘major issues afflicting the market towns’ in the area.

One of the issues brought up by Alnwick Chamber of Trade was that ‘the number of charity shops springing up in prime positions’ was growing.

It also raised a second issue that ‘too many’ out-of-town retail developments were gaining planning permission across the county as a whole.

The meeting was set up by Alnwick Chamber of Trade to ask the Berwick constituency General Election candidates what stance they would take on the shops.

At the meeting, many businesses owners raised the issue of their positioning in towns.

Estate agency boss Richard Sayer said that ‘the traditional way of assessing rateable values by how prime their position is in the town centre and charging them accordingly, is out-dated and out-of-town retail sites should be considered the prime positions and charged accordingly’.

The Chamber of Trade said this would reduce the demand to build out-of-town and the high revenue could be reinvested into revitalising the town centres.

The group also said that ‘charity shops were not trading on a level playing field to other retailers’ as at present they can claim up to 100 per cent rate relief nationally. The chamber would like to see the rate ‘cut to 50 per cent maximum’.

Chairman Carlo Biagioni said they were ‘keen’ to acknowledge ‘the good work’ that charity shops do but the chamber feels that ‘there can be too many which has a negative affect on the overall wellbeing of the town centre’.

A spokesman from the Charity Retail Association, which represents Oxfam and Cancer Research UK, said: “Charity shops contribute to creating a thriving high street across the UK, and we support measures to lighten the burden of rates on other retailers. It is important to remember that the relief is given to all charities, not just shops, and is less than five per cent of the entire relief given but this enables them to raise over £310million for charitable causes.”