Letter: Only reform can lure high street traders

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article commenting on the Government's rather obvious research that market town centres will be ruined by out-of- town superstores completely ignores two issues that urgently need review ('From market town to ghost town', 21 April).

1. The uniform business rate penalises small traders and friendly, family run businesses. Charges should reflect location and size with a progressive formula designed to penalise certain types of trader farthest from a town centre and who also have larger floor areas. Perhaps local councils should tax superstore car parking spaces and use the money to subsidise town centre rates?

2. Many town centre properties are leased on pernicious 25-year or longer leases that are difficult to dispose of to new traders. Legislation should be introduced to reform leasehold law so that reputable traders are tempted back into the high street and are prepared to invest in their environment.

Without these two fundamental reforms aimed at stimulating business, it is hard to believe that there will be anywhere to go to on the special buses that you refer to, however consumer-friendly the environment of the town centre.

Yours faithfully,

NEIL THOMSON

London, W6

21 April

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