TALKING down Braintree’s town centre will not encourage positive change, council bosses have said.

Residents raised concerns over the future of the town centre following the closure of a number of High Street stores including Townrow, and the announcement of charity shops moving in.

Tom Cunningham, councillor responsible for economic development at Braintree Council, said everyone needs to stop talking Braintree down for change to happen.

He said: “We know the only way we can revitalise the town centre is to work in partnership with other public sector bodies, local landowners and property agents.

“We all need to start talking about what the town has to offer rather than continuously focusing on what could be better. Why would businesses want to come to a place which is always being talked down?

“Our message is if you know your market, are adaptable, have done your research in terms of shoppers’ habits — you can be successful in Braintree.”

Shoppers felt the town was being overrun with charity stores, as they do not have to pay business rates.

British Heart Foundation announced it would be taking over part of the Townrow building in the High Street earlier this month.

Mr Cunningham said there were concessions on rates for charities as they provide a service.

He said: “It is true there are concessions on business rates for charity shops, but they are serving a need during difficult financial times.

“We take readers’ concerns very seriously and we do not want to see a town centre full of charity shops.

“There isn’t a lot we can do about it if two charity shops want to open next to each other, and it reiterates our involvement as a local authority.”

Anita Thornberry, head of economic development, said as long as planning regulations are followed, they have no say over what businesses move in.

She said it was not only charity shops that avoid having to pay business rates — 63 per cent of the dis- trict’s businesses are exempt as they are beneath the threshold.

Mr Cunningham said the council had considered options to encourage smaller businesses such as buying buildings to use for retail, but this comes with costs.

He said any change would not happen overnight.

He said: “There are no quick fixes, it is complex and it will take time but we can, in partnership, better recognise and celebrate the cultural offer - ing in the town centre, improve the public realm, and promote the town centre more effectively.

“Talking Braintree down absolutely kills the chance of outward investment.

“We have a vision of a better, more attractive environment where people can enjoy themselves.”