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Newspaper Columns

KM Column - 12 April 2018 - High Streets

As we all know, high streets are the life and soul of our towns and villages. They help bring us together as a community, whether that’s through chatting in coffee shops or just passing each other on a weekly visit. The high street is a place everybody knows, and where everybody goes.

In West Malling we are lucky enough to have a wonderful street, full of independent shops and restaurants. People come from miles around for the personal service they get at independent shops like Soles With Heart, The Chocolate Umbrella and West Malling Flowers. I go as often as I can for the best pizza in the county at the Farm House. But sadly, not all towns have the same draw. Some need a little more love and attention to restore them to their former glory.

One reason for this, is business rates. Although calculated on the basis on square footage and number of employees, shops on the high street are unfairly given a higher charge than places out of town. This was supposed to be because they were seen as prime spots, but now with deliveries and online shopping so frequent, this benefit has been eroded and more shops are shutting up because they are unable to cope with the higher costs of a shopfront.

I am a huge supporter of the high street, not just for commercial reasons, they give our communities an identity. That’s why I’m going to be talking to the Treasury about seeing what we can do to balance the burden of business taxes more fairly. If you or someone you know owns a shop and has struggled with business rates, please let me know. I am interested to hear about your experiences. I will be compiling a list of all those who have been badly affected and taking the cases to the Minister to show the impact they are having. This system is in need of reform, and I hope we can change it so that we can see towns and villages flourishing again. 

Georgie Welford