Businesses in Lancashire town lobby MP for cap on charity shops

The number of charity shops in Lytham has risen from six to nine since November, according to the Lytham Business Partnership

Lytham, Lancashire
Lytham, Lancashire

Businesses in Lytham, Lancashire, are lobbying their local MP for a cap on the number of charity shops in the town.

Members of the Lytham Business Partnership said that the number of charity shops in Lytham had risen from six to nine since November.

Although Lytham is estimated to have about 230 retail units in total, the group said it was concerned that the high street was losing its retail mix because of the influx of charity shops, as well as cafés and restaurants.

The group received support from the Federation of Small Businesses and has lobbied Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde, to do something to address the balance.

Andrew Fallow, chair of the Lytham Business Partnership, a self-employed financial adviser and a volunteer for the Lytham St Annes Lifeboat Station, said: "Once a charity shop gets in, it’s there to stay. There aren’t many empty shops on our high street and landlords aren’t allowing independent retailers a chance to take them.

"They’d much rather give the space to a charity that will be paying rent for longer than to someone who will retire in 20 years’ time."

Fallow said that two charities in Lytham's high street occupied more than one outlet, and some local business owners also thought it unfair that charity shops could move onto their high street without having to apply to change the usage of their properties.

Gary Lovatt, regional chairman for Lancashire and Cumbria at the FSB, said: "When in some areas there are more charity shops than small business retailers, and some of those charity shops are selling new goods, things have clearly gone too far. The favourable tax treatment for these shops makes it a very uneven playing field."

The Lytham Business Partnership is considering asking that a government consultation on laws to control the spread of betting shops that is due to take place this summer be extended to include charity shops.

This could lead to councils vetting applications for betting shops and charity shops more stringently than for other retailers.

Fallow suggested that the government could bring in legislation that would allow local authorities to set their own quotas for the mix of businesses of local town centres. He acknowledged that, in some towns, the occupation of empty retail units by charities was useful, but said this was not the case in Lytham, which he said was a thriving retail town.

A spokesman for the Charity Retail Association said: "We appreciate that it is a very tough environment for small high-street traders at present, but this is the result of the toxic combination of a very difficult economic climate coupled with long-term changes in consumer trends, including out-of-town and internet retailing.

"Charity retailers are in many instances working with other businesses to encourage footfall on the high street. Closure of charity shops would mean the loss of the paid jobs they provide, as well as volunteering opportunities and environmental benefits for local communities."

According to the CRA, 90 per cent of goods sold in charity shops are donated.


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