A group of disgruntled Beckenham shop owners have joined forces in protest after a troubled year of trading.

Some businesses have bemoaned sales slumps after year-long improvement works to Beckenham High Street, while other shops have closed for good.

More than 70 shops have now signed a petition against paying a yearly sum towards Beckenham Improvement District (BID) – describing it as a "double tax".

The BID is funded by businesses in the area and aims to help "Beckenham better compete as a town".

Despite the petition, 84 per cent of businesses have now paid the annual fee.

However, one of the high street’s longest serving shop owners, Debby Randall, has refused to pay.

Debby, manager of fashion shop Column, said: “It has been the worst year of our lives.

"I have had to lay off two girls. My trade is down 55 per cent. Nobody realised we had to pay BID rates. It was in small print which nobody reads.

"It is an insult. The BID is working on our behalf, but they want to charge us for it. It is a double tax.

"We don’t want to pay another tax when we can’t even afford Bromley Council rates anymore."

The owner of Magill’s of London, a high street jeweller, insists he won’t pay and is willing to go to court over the feud.

The shopkeeper, who asked not to be named, said: "If the court finds I have to pay, I will leave my business. An extra £280 a year for something that won't benefit us is pathetic.

"They are trying to bankrupt me. The past year has been awful, we have taken private funds to keep us afloat."

One business, Red Boutique, was forced to close after 12 years last month after its owner was "shocked" at how much it cost her to say open during the year.

READ MORE - Red Boutique owner blames Beckenham High Street roadworks for closure

Janet White, owner of Allure homeware shop, is now also having to shut after 13 years.

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She described being heartbroken at having to close.

"It’s too late for me," she said. "In another year or so it will be thriving on the high street. But I’m facing bankruptcy now.

"This was my life. I had another eight years on my lease. I can’t turn my business around."

A spokeswoman for Beckenham BID said: "Seventy-four per cent of businesses backed the proposal which puts town centre businesses in the driving seat to help Beckenham better compete as a town.

"We are at a critical and exciting time for Beckenham now and we all need to work together, both businesses and residents, to make the most of the opportunities that we have.

"We need to ensure Beckenham remains a successful place to operate a business and this means investing.

"It was always understood that when Beckenham businesses voted yes in the Business Improvement District ballot, that the relatively small costs would be shared by businesses based in the town and 84 per cent of businesses have already paid their share, with this money being directly invested in the future of the town and the prosperity of the individual businesses, with this investment anticipated to producing potential cost savings for businesses too."

Councillor Peter Morgan, executive councillor for renewal, recreation and housing, said: “There are well publicised challenges which affect the retail sector nationally and it is partly because of those competitive pressures that we have invested so heavily in improving the town centre, supporting all businesses. 

"It is always disappointing when a business closes but this will happen from time to time, with even national retailers being affected.  

"We all recognised that there would be an element of disruption whilst the work was progressing but I think the improved Beckenham is looking really nice, with the resulting improved pedestrian flow ultimately benefiting traders way into the future.

"I would like to thank businesses for their support in what has been a challenging period, with the disruptive work now largely complete.  There are very few vacant shops in Beckenham and the future looks bright."