Family firm chief blasts council rules

PUBLISHED: 17:35 18 March 2009 | UPDATED: 16:19 25 August 2010

THE manager of a family business has slated councils for not giving independent businesses 'a fair crack of the whip'.

THE manager of a family business has slated councils for not giving independent businesses 'a fair crack of the whip'.

Managing director of Oak Interiors, Nick Smith, from Bexley, hit out at the council for not supporting independent traders when they grant planning permission for retail parks. This comes after his landlord, Aberdeen Property Investors, decided not renew the lease of his furniture shop in Crayford Road, opposite the Tower Retail Park which the asset management group also own. He said councils have the power, through planning control, to ensure independent retailers have a chance to compete with nationals. He said: "My landlord has done nothing wrong. "I am not asking for special treatment, just a fair crack of the whip.

"The future of independent retail in this country is pretty gloomy. Every town centre is going to end up looking the same as the last. You will end up with Tescos and two or three other big names and nothing else. Independent retailers offer variety. "The council has the power to make it happen."

The business, which was started by Mr Smith's great-great grandmother in 1918, have had the shop in Crayford for nine years after relocating from Lowfield Street, in Dartford, as a redevelopment was planned. Now Mr Smith is being forced to make two sales staff redundant and work out of his warehouse in the Bourne Road Industrial Park in Crayford. Although the company, which also has a store in Heathfield in East Sussex, has not been one of the victims of the credit crunch, Mr Smith worries about its future in Bexley.

He said: "We have been profitable here for nine years and that is not the issue. It is about the difficulty in finding somewhere to trade from. We have to have a good site to stay in business.

"Furniture retailers need a big site to display their products and we can't operate from trade counters as you can only sell to the trade."

A spokesperson for Bexley council said: "This is not a matter of local planning policy. The council is not permitted to impose planning conditions favouring one type of retail ownership over another."

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