Local shops are closing so fast it’s hard to keep up. This week The Dispensary on Kensington Park Road, which has been selling us dresses, handbags and shoes for the past 20 years has closed it’s doors for the last time. Owner Sophy Lynn blames it on the council: “There are various reasons why we have closed, but the main one is the business rates which the council have raised 35% in the last five years.” Council rates are linked to rental rates and square footage and many small businesses, the ones which give the area its character, just can’t pay and make their businesses profitable. Business rates for an average sized independent shop is around £15,000 a year. “Rents have risen so business rates have risen accordingly,” says Lynn, “If the council wants chains or empty shops they are doing a good job.” Another lovely shop having its closing down sale (go now for a fabulous kaftan, up to 70% off before 23rd March) is Gooshwa, also on Kensington Park Road opposite E&O. Owner Nar Jaber says: ” It is a combination of the rent going up and business rate increases.” The shop has been there for 8 years and Jaber says the recession is also to blame. “People are buying less luxury stuff and people who were buying 3-4 kaftans now just buy one. We are not generating enough to keep it running.” Those two shops join a ceramic shop on Blenheim and a shoe shop on Portobello. Even Butlers on Notting Hill Gate and Monsoon on Westbourne Grove are packing their bags and tiny tiaras.