‘Right to buy’ proposal a threat to retailers

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Government plans could present obstacles for small store owners

Government plans to give community groups a first right to buy community assets, including shops, have come under fire from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which claims they could damage retail businesses of all sizes.

The BRC believes the proposal would make it harder for an individual to sell a shop they owned — putting people off buying shops in future — and throw up new barriers to investment, growth and jobs by discouraging business development.

As currently proposed, the ‘Right to Buy’ would allow community groups to identify ‘assets with community value’ including shops, plots of land and other private and public sector property.

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If one of these came up for sale the community group would be given the first opportunity to buy it. The group would be given time to register that intention and then to compile a business plan. This could force a delay in the sale of one of these properties for up to six months and could skew the market, reducing the value of such assets.

The BRC says the aim of saving local facilities threatened with closure is laudable but these proposals would have a range of damaging, unintended consequences.

The owner of, for example, a local gift shop would be prevented from realising the value of their property at the best time. Knowing they faced a lengthy and bureaucratic process before they could sell in future, people would be put off buying such shops. Business sales often fund small retailers’ pension plans.

The complexity and delay connected with listed land would discourage investors from buying those sites, harming the regeneration and development which is vital to growth and job creation.

BRC director of business and regulation, Tom Ironside, said the government needs to give retail businesses the certainty they need to make investment decisions. “Right to Buy will only work if local needs and decision-making operate within a sensible national framework so retailers small and large can buy and sell efficiently,” he stated.

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