HIGH STREETS are at risk of losing their cultural value and becoming ‘dormitories for London’, Tonbridge’s MP has warned.
The future of small, independent retailers has made headlines recently as business rates – a tax on the rateable value of their property – are on the rise, and footfall on high streets and in town centres is on the decline.
MP Tom Tugendhat, spoke out in the House of Commons on Thursday (February 23) during a debate with Leader of the House, David Lidington.
“I wonder whether the Leader of the House might encourage the Government to give some time to talk about not just the economic value of the high street but the culture that it brings,” he said.
“As we are talking about business rates very widely at the moment, it would be wrong to focus simply on the economic output but actually on the very nature of the society high streets bring.
“Otherwise towns like those that I represent, Edenbridge, West Malling and Tonbridge, will simply be dormitories for London and lose the very essence that keeps our county and our country so great.”
The MP later told the Times that he had written to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, to ask that his constituents ‘do not receive an extortionate rise in business rates this year’.
He added: “For many retailers, this is an expense which threatens their future viability – particularly for small independent stores which are key to our high streets.
“Our towns and villages have distinct and unique characters which make them so popular, something I, and many people in our community, wish to see recognised and supported through the tax system.”
Head of Tonbridge Town Team, Howard Porter, said: “Tom Tugendhat is right to point to the threat to high streets and the need to ensure that they maintain distinctiveness and attract people not simply to shop but to take part in cultural and social activities too.”