The Charity Retail Association has hit back at a proposal from the shopping expert Mary Portas to limit the number of charity shops able to claim rate relief.
Portas, who is leading a government-commissioned review on the future of the high street, made the comments in Parliament last week.
Speaking at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on town centres, Portas said that there should be a cap on the number of charity shops in town centres, and the 80 per cent rate relief they receive should be offered to start-up retail businesses as well.
Wendy Mitchell, head of policy and public affairs at the association, said such a proposal would hit charities’ fundraising options at a time of unprecedented cuts.
The association, which represents 80 per cent of charity shops the UK, is writing to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to urge him to reject any proposals in the high street review that limit the work of charity shops.
"The problems on the high street are nothing to do with charity shops," Mitchell said. "In fact, charity shops are often occupying premises that would otherwise be empty – so any cap on the number of charity shops is likely to increase the number of empty shopfronts."
Mitchell cited research commissioned by the association showing many shoppers liked the choice and value for money offered by charity shops.
An online survey of 1,002 members of the public this month showed 84 per cent of respondents shopped in charity shops because of the quality of the goods and bargains on offer; and nearly two-thirds of people on lower incomes frequented charity shops.
The High Street Review will report to the Prime Minister in the autumn with recommendations to boost development in town centres and improve the quality of life in local areas.