A BASINGSTOKE charity shop has been forced to close because of falling footfall and anti-social behaviour at the Top of Town.

The RSPCA store on London Street funds much of the charity's work in the Basingstoke and Andover area, with the organisation now saying they are looking for new units and say they are "worried we may not be able to continue our amazing charity work".

A spokesperson added on social media that the effects of the Covid pandemic "has hit us hard". Three lockdowns saw charity shops closed and a massive impact on the sector.

The statement read: "We are sad to say that our RSPCA charity shop has had to close due to falling footfall at the top of town due to ongoing anti-social behaviour incidents.

"Our shop was our main income for financial support to fund our welfare work in the Basingstoke and Andover area.

"We would love to continue to provide this charity shop service that many have loved over the years but we are desperately searching for the right place.

"If anyone knows of an empty unit that we can easily receive and sell donations please message us.

"We would love it to be a hub for animal advice and support also and where we can advertise our animals up for adoption as well as meet and greets."

The charity has had a presence in the region for 50 years.

Dozens of people took to social media to express their sadness with the news, with one saying it was "absolutely disgusting that Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council allows this to continue and our town to deteriorate".

Another added: "So sad, I loved shopping in the Basingstoke one, I will miss it very much."

A third commented: "Oh no... so gutted. Loved this little charity shop, bought many a bargain in there!

"I really hope you find a bigger better place in Basingstoke."

The Gazette has reported extensively on the Top of Town's anti-social behaviour issues in recent years, as well as issues over empty units.

In 2019, the borough council invested £7,000 in footfall counters to monitor the number of people in the area for three years.

And Basingstoke Together, the area's former Business Improvement District, introduced town rangers to patrol the area and help combat anti-social behaviour before the organisation was wound up earlier this year.

The social media post from the RSPCA continued: "Without a physical location that people can come to we are worried we may not be able to continue our amazing charity work that we have carried out tirelessly for the past 50 years locally here.

"We have continued to support people throughout lockdown but it has hit us hard. If you are able to help with property locations or financial support that would be wonderful.

"Our furry friends will be eternally grateful."

It comes after The Gazette reported last month how a new taskforce was being assembled to fight anti-social behaviour in Hampshire.

The county's Police and Crime Commissioner, Donna Jones, launched the taskforce as part of National Anti-Social Behaviour Awareness Week. According to Hampshire Constabulary data, there were over 37,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour from April 2020-2021, with alcohol, drug and youth incidents the most common.

The new taskforce will be a collaboration with the Police and Crime Commissioner and Hampshire Constabulary, with police district commanders taking a lead role. Local stakeholders and partners will be invited to attend to discuss and tackle specific problems and issues that require action beyond policing alone, with community safety partnerships, local authorities and social landlords among those being invited.

You can read more here.

BDBC has been contacted for comment.