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The local shop under threat: not ‘just economics’

March 30, 2011

A lack of local shops is bad news for people with disabilities, older people, and those who don’t drive. Imagine how annoying it would be when you realise you’ve run out of some vital cooking ingredient and there’s nowhere close to buy it. Yet local shops are under threat – in London alone, according to a recent London Assembly report, 7000 local shops were lost between 2001 and 2007. Is this a tragedy or simply inevitable?

The advent of big American-style outlet stores and supermarkets, and the rise of online shopping, have both contributed to the changing pattern of neighbourhoods. So It’s easy for people to say that the demise of local shops is just a result of their preferences. But when you talk to people, a different picture emerges. 82 per cent of people in the UK feel that a decline in local shops has a negative effect on their local community. 24 per cent of us already do all our grocery shopping within walking distance of home – but another 28 per cent would like to if we could.

Another factor that doesn’t help is the way the planning system currently works, failing to give local communities a say in keeping a balanced mix of shops and services within walking distance in their area. When banks become betting shops or a community pub becomes a fast food outlet – neither of which require planning permission under the current system – the whole community is affected, most of all older and disabled people who are unable to travel further afield to access such basic amenities.

Local closures aren’t inevitable – there are a lot of things that can be done to protect the kinds of safe, compact neighbourhoods that people consistently express their desire to live in. We’re campaigning to make sure planning reforms change this for the better. But we need your support. Please stand up for your neighbourhood hero and make your feelings known.

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