Charity shops provide real diversity in town centres

The area of vacant land near the Haven Exchange in Felixstowe - it could be a shopping mall or an As

The area of vacant land near the Haven Exchange in Felixstowe - it could be a shopping mall or an Asda superstore. - Credit: Archant

ODD that our community leaders are so worried about the amount of non-food items the new Asda at Haven Exchange in Felixstowe – if it is finally approved – will be selling.

Town councillors are concerned about the impact on the town centre if 40% of the 20,000sq ft store is devoted to DVDs, clothes, pots and pans.

Yet the site already has permission for 45,000sq ft of non-food shops – twice the supermarket proposal – and that could be built tomorrow.

An Asda will inevitably sell what Felixstowe needs most of all: children’s clothing. Hopefully its customers will chug on in to the town for a browse and a bite to eat, too.

The town council did approve the store in principle, and having already agreed the railway station scheme – now strongly rumoured to be a Sainsbury – it appears we are set for two superstores at least.

Now we wait to see if Suffolk Coastal will ignore the town council opposition and give the Walton Green Tesco approval as well.

A common complaint about Felixstowe town centre is the lack of diversity and the increasing number of charity shops and the sizeable discount they get when it comes to business rates.

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Should the discount end to remove an unfair advantage?

Several of these charities are big businesses with turnovers of many millions of pounds, and executives on huge salaries. Several sell new items as well as secondhand stock, competing directly with privately-run outlets.

On the other hand, EACH, Basic and St Elizabeth Hospice all support vital local facilities, and some people will say every help should be given to good causes supporting real needs, whether in Suffolk, nationally or internationally.

Many will argue, too, that their cheaper goods are even more essential at a time when people are finding it tough to manage financially, and charity shops provide the real diversity in our town centres – selling a large range of goods which would otherwise not be available.

It’s an absorbing debate.

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