ANGRY shopkeepers claim Bexley Council is ruining Footscray High Street after introducing fees for items put on the pavement.

Traders face an annual charge of £50 for advertising boards while frontage displays, tables and chairs cost £75 or £150 a month depending on size.

Robert Brogden, who runs South London Pellet and Particles, said: "The first we heard of it was when a lady came in last week and hit me with a letter.

"It's just ridiculous. All they are doing is persecuting the small shop owners."

The 58-year-old added: "People are going to walk straight past thinking we are shut. It's going to ruin the High Street."

Debbie McCann, who owns The Flower Shop, is being charged £150 a month to keep plants outside.

The 52-year-old said: "It's diabolical. I can't afford to pay it. It's just a big money scam and they are sacrificing the small businesses."

Mrs McCann, who has run the shop for four years, says she will be forced to close if the charges stay in place.

She said: "If I go they will lose their rates and there will be another empty shop in Sidcup. It doesn't make sense."

Patricia Neal, who has owned The Lunch Box for around 10 years, has removed tables and chairs from outside because she cannot afford the £75 monthly fee.

She said: "We are on a low income already.

"We are working to keep ourselves off the dole. If we shut down what are we going to do?"

A council spokeswoman said: "Strategy 2014 sets out how the council needs to achieve the required savings of £35m.

"As one of many cases in the strategy, the licensing of A boards and of shop frontage displays, including tables and chairs, was introduced in April with a reduced rate for smaller displays being implemented in August.

"This licensing scheme is one which is already in place in the majority of London Boroughs and Bexley’s fees are lower than those of neighbouring boroughs."