Concern over village shop closures raised with council leaders

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Brockenhurst shops
Two stores are leaving Brookley Road in Brockenhurst, and the post office is also under threat

CONCERNS about a string of Brockenhurst shops facing closure reported in the A&T were raised at a meeting of New Forest District Council.

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Cllr Jan Duke, a Conservative member for Boldre and Sway, questioned in the council chamber on Monday night how the authority could help traders.

She said: “Representing a largely rural area, I am concerned that the post office in Brockenhurst has just closed, the Sainsbury’s Local is closing in October and the local sandwich shop is also closing very soon.

“Could I ask the portfolio holder for the local economy what, if anything, we can do to support our local retailers across the district?”

Cllr Michael Harris is the Conservative cabinet member for economic development, and member for the Brockenhurst and Forest South East ward. He replied: “Yes, it’s worrying to see three shops closing in Brockenhurst at roughly the same time.

“This is something that I and my ward colleague have been working on for some time.”

He said the sandwich shop was set to reopen under a new owner and he was optimistic that the prominent position of the Sainsbury’s unit meant it would not stay empty for long.

“All our high streets are changing because, in this digital age, how we shop is changing. We visit banks and shops less than we used to,” he said.

He urged communities and town and parish councils to hold events to attract visitors, such as farmers’ markets and seasonal attractions like the Easter pancake races.

He also highlighted how NFDC’s “mystery shopper” scheme gave feedback to traders to help improve their offering, and award the best.

Cllr Duke also pressed Cllr Harris about the “burden” of the business rates tax on struggling companies.

He pointed out the charge was set by government but noted French efforts to tax internet companies like Amazon more heavily.

He added: “We can lobby our MPs and government to do something similar. We need to get them to do something to level the playing field.”

As reported in the A&T, the owners of CJs sandwich shop, Susan Czajkowski and Cheryl Hughes, said their departure was due to issues with the lease. Sainsbury’s blamed a “range of factors”.

The post office has shut but Post Office Ltd said it was in the “early stage” of talks with a new postmaster.

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