Political pressure has helped a shop owner and NFRN member in Thurrock to mitigate the impact of the council’s controversial £10m office redevelopment.

Local paper the Thurrock Gazette reported in November that the ‘regeneration’ project led local newsagents Pritesh and Nissa Patel to be given six weeks to vacate their Daves News shop. 

The paper said this would “destroy their livelihoods” due to them being left with unsold stock, and the council’s failure to offer a suitable replacement location. 

The paper’s local democracy reporter, Steve Shaw, told betterRetailing: “They were offered another location, but the rent was double.

“The independent retailers received pretty much no communication from the council.”

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NFRN retail development manager (RDM) Shirish Patel alleged that the issue was complicated by the actions of the shop’s landlord. 

The RDM claimed the landlord attempted to charge the retailer for a “defective” shop floor, implement backdated rent increases and add other costs the retailers were not liable for.

The NFRN said issues got worse when the landlord sold the property to avoid a compulsory purchase order. 

Describing the offer made by the council for their business, Pritesh told the Thurrock Gazette: “It was under the value of our business, but they then threatened us with court and told us we could be left with nothing.”

The council had described the changes as helping to create “an exciting and high-quality place for everyone”. 

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However, Labour council opposition leader Jane Pothecary said: “Big promises were made about compensation and relocation, but these haven’t been fulfilled.

“We’re supposed to be supporting small businesses, but Thurrock Council is treating them with contempt.”

The NFRN said action by its team helped to resolve the issues faced by Pritesh and Nissa. 

The store’s NFRN RDM explained: “We responded to the council’s inadequate offer and having advised Pritesh to speak to the council at a political level via the leader of the council, it enabled the parties to agree a financial settlement directly, quickly and satisfactorily.”

“In all of this, Pritesh avoided incurring any further legal costs, other than that originally incurred in fighting the service charge dispute through solicitors. The final legal costs were met by the council.”

District president for London and Essex Hetal Patel commented on the result: “I’m happy to hear the NFRN was able to help. We’re here for the members – I encourage any member in difficulty to make use of the NFRN’s services.”

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