Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Monday, June 04, 2007

Listen to the people.

The EDP reports that - East Anglian campaigners last night urged the government to “listen” to the people as a survey gave overwhelming backing to the dwindling network of independent shops and pubs. They also called for money to be put directly into the hands of people living in towns and villages to kickstart projects and facilities to revive community spirit. In a ringing endorsement of the EDP's Shop Here campaign, the survey found almost nine-out-of-10 people believed a good range of independent shops was crucial in keeping communities together. The study, to mark today's launch of National Independents' Week, found that most people placed great value on community spirit - flying in the face of the view that old-fashioned values are disappearing. But My Shop is Your Shop, the organisation behind the survey, warned that there was a “great sense of anxiety” about the growing threat to neighbourhoods and communities. Nigel Dowdney, who owns independent shops at Stalham and West Earlham, Norwich, said: “I'm heartened by this. The survey is backing up something we've been saying for a long time. It's extremely important to have a vibrant local community and local shops are a crucial part of that.” Mr Dowdney, a member of the Association of Convenience Stores, added: “Independent shops are a meeting place for people. They are a focus for the community.” He said the government needed to “listen” to what was being said, and felt the survey showed “increasing concern” at the growing power of the supermarket “big boys”. Peter Medhurst, chairman of Norfolk Rural Community Council (NRCC), said: “I think independent shops and pubs are really the key to reviving local communities. I don't think you can have a community without some sort of centre. Sense of community is even more important than it has ever been. We've got to try to think of ways to bring people together. In this region, the East of England Development Agency (Eeda) ought to be putting more of its resources into pump-priming community development. There are a lot of small projects that don't need a lot of money, just enough to give them a start. We think small amounts of money should be given to communities to develop their own solutions.” The survey, conducted by YouGov, found that 65pc of those questioned would like to take a more active role in their local community and more than half (57pc) feared that communities were under threat from a lack of activities for the young. People believed the most important factors in achieving a successful community were clean safe streets (51pc), effective policing (48pc) and a strong neighbours' culture where people looked out for one another (39pc). However, more than half (52pc) believed that community stretched no more than two miles from their front door. An overwhelming majority (87pc) believed a good range of local independent shops was important in maintaining a good local community and mentioned the pub and the church as the other places where personal relationships were nurtured. Alan Toft, chairman of the My Shop is Your Shop campaign, said: “Clearly people are feeling a sense of real anxiety about the threats to their neighbourhoods and communities and want to see more done to protect and promote their local shops, services and cultures. What is really encouraging however, is that they want to do something themselves to further the local cause and we know from the perspective of our 55,000 local shopkeepers across the country that they too are increasingly engaging in community activities.” The findings are firmly in line with the ethos behind the EDP's Shop Here campaign, which encourages people to support their local shops and amenities. The campaign was recently given strong backing by Conservative leader David Cameron during a visit to Norfolk in April. The previous month, the Prince of Wales praised Norfolk's food producers as he visited two shops run by a family farming co-operative.