A leading restaurateur who hopes to open a high-end Tunbridge Wells fish and chip takeaway has spoken of his frustration at being ‘gazumped’ by charity shops.
Matthew Sankey, 34, says he was outbid four times on rent deals by large national charities which get business rate relief owing to their status.
Father of one Mr Sankey was gazumped twice in Sevenoaks’ main high street and more recently at the town end of Camden Road and again in Monson Road.
Mr Sankey, of Speldhurst, blames neither the charity shops for needing town centre premises nor landlords for securing dependable tenants.
But he feels the cards are stacked against entrepreneurship.
Mr Sankey has been looking for a suitable premises ‘for quite a while’ so he can expand his local food empire.
He said: “We think we are bringing something more premium in the fish and chip sector to the town. This would be the use of fresh fish not frozen, hand cut chips, real beer batter, gluten-free batter and the like.
“So we had several sites in mind but we have also had several – four to be precise – disappointments.
“The relief on business rates given to charity shops is an incentive that is all wrong and is entirely loaded against expanding local businesses and entrepreneurship.
“I cannot blame the landlords for taking the charity shops on because they will provide a steady income and are backed by huge national corporations which they know have got money.”
Rupert Farrant of commercial agents Durlings said: “By the nature of charity shops it is true they are able to offer a better rent as they have lower total overheads on rates, staffing, stock and so on.
“Having said that, I am not convinced that a landlord goes ‘Yippee, it’s a charity shop’. It’s not as simple as that.”
A spokesman for the Charity Retail Association said charities receive 80 per cent mandatoryÂ business rate relief in recognition of their good work.
He said: “Charity shops more than pay back the rate relief received in the amounts they raise for charity, for example in 2012-13, £290 million was raised for charity.
“For every £1 given in rate relief, £4.46 is generated for charitable spending – money which the government might have to find to fund the work otherwise.”
The CRA claims the vacancy rate on UK high streets last year was almost 14 per cent and it ‘is clear there are enough properties to go round’.