Somerset councillor calls for limits on charity shops

David Shopland says they should also pay full business rates

David Shopland
David Shopland

The number of charity shops in north Somerset should be limited and they should pay full business rates, according to a local councillor.

David Shopland, an independent councillor at the Conservative-run North Somerset Council, made the proposal at a committee meeting this month.

Shopland told Third Sector that he had asked the council to investigate limiting the number of charity shops in the local area and getting them to pay full rates, as other shops do, because of the number of charity shops that had started to open.

Charities receive an 80 per cent reduction in business rates on premises used for charitable purposes and can be granted relief on the remaining 20 per cent by the local authority.

"We have a problem in the smaller towns of a preponderance of charity shops," said Shopland. "In isolation I have no problem with that, but now many of them are selling new goods and this is gradually creating unfair competition for neighbouring shopkeepers."

He said he would like to see only one charity shop for every 50 yards of shop front, because if there were too many charity shops it could affect council income and therefore local services.

"There needs to be a fairer proportion of charity shops so the other shops are not put at a disadvantage," he said. "If you have an area with only one type of shop in it they will destroy themselves."

The council’s scrutiny panel will discuss Shopland’s suggestions at a meeting on Monday (28 November).

Wendy Mitchell, head of policy and public affairs at the Charity Retail Association, said she had not heard of similar measures being discussed at any other councils.

"We hope North Somerset Council chooses to reject any proposals to restrict the operation of charity shops," she said. "Charity shops provide a vital fundraising income at a time when many other sources of funding for charities – such as grants – are being cut back."

Mike Lucas, retail director for the British Heart Foundation, which has a number of shops in north Somerset, said problems on the high street were nothing to do with charity shops.

"Our shops are currently occupying premises that would otherwise be empty – any cap on the number of charity shops is likely to increase the number of derelict sites," he said.

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