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Councils under fire as old shop closes

PUBLISHED: 09:00 18 September 2009 | UPDATED: 08:32 01 August 2010

COUNCILS stood accused this week of helping to bring about the closure of a bookshop that has been in Beccles for nearly 40 years.

The Gazette Bookshop, which has stood in The Walk since 1972, will move to Bungay at the end of the month - but owner Douglas Johnstone has hit out at Waveney District Council and Beccles Town Council for helping to bring about the closure by “inviting” chain stores into Beccles.

COUNCILS stood accused this week of helping to bring about the closure of a bookshop that has been in Beccles for nearly 40 years.

The Gazette Bookshop, which has stood in The Walk since 1972, will move to Bungay at the end of the month - but owner Douglas Johnstone has hit out at Waveney District Council and Beccles Town Council for helping to bring about the closure by “inviting” chain stores into Beccles.

Mr Johnstone, who has owned the store with his wife Sheila for 14 years, said: “It has become more and more difficult over recent years for small independent bookshops to survive with the increased competition from cut-price multiple stores and the internet. Neither the district council or the town council, unfortunately, has lifted a finger to help small shopkeepers.”

However, both councils this week strongly denied any role in influencing chain stores to come to Beccles.

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said that the movement of businesses in or out of locations was based on market choice and that they had no influence over such a decision.

“Our economic regeneration team works hard to support local companies and also those employers looking at the town as a possible location and who will bring jobs to the area. But we work to strict guidelines and are also governed by planning policies and procedures,” he added.

Clerk to Beccles Town Council Bernie Broom said: “If it's already a retail outlet and the business coming in is a retail business we get no say whatsoever on who comes in.”

Almost exactly a year ago, Mr Johnstone warned his shop would close in two months if business did not get better. He and his wife have struggled on, but in the last six months the shop has barely been covering its costs.

The Johnstones are moving to 2 Upper Olland Street in Bungay in the hope that they can flourish in a town where there is no competition from other new book sellers.

“It isn't something that we decided to do lightly, but we can't carry on paying out more in rent and bills

than we earn any longer,” said Mr Johnstone.

He and his wife would be sad to leave Beccles, where they had made many friends, but Mr Johnston said he was looking forward to opening a shop in Bungay, which should be open by the end of October.


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