Campaign behind great towns, not ghost towns
But it is not simply about keeping the character and prosperity of our local communities, there are environmental and ethical spin offs to shopping locally as well. This week will also see councillors in North Norfolk meet to decide whether to give the green light to a controversial scheme for a new Tesco in Sheringham. At stake opponents believe is the vibrancy of a community blessed with independent traders. And should councillors throw out the plans, the issue is sure to become a cause celebre across the country. The battle is finely balanced, which is why many are now taking a stand.
More than 800 local shops and traders have signed up and support is now reaching the corridors of power. Tory leader David Cameron has already spoken of his support for the initiative on a visit to Diss, hailing it as a perfect example of how communities can work together to help each other. And North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb is to table a Commons early day motion to gain the backing of all MPs. While the government is also keen to recognise the benefits of promoting local trade as it seeks to create sustainable communities.
Housing minister, Yvette Cooper said: “It is great to see that EDP is supporting small local shops. Town centres are the bustling hearts of every community and the government's policies will continue to be about creating great towns, not ghost towns. The government's town centres first policy means planning rules have to prioritise town centres over out-of-town shopping and block developments that threaten the survival of high streets and small shops. It is right that the planning system supports prosperous high streets, where small shops can succeed and there is choice for local people.”
Mr Lamb's motion to Parliament states: “This house supports the EDP Shop Here campaign; recognises the aim of retaining local shops and post offices, particularly in rural areas; recognises the importance of local businesses in terms of sustainability, the vitality of the local economy and retaining diversity; recognises the very real threat to local shops due to the power of supermarkets and other multiple stores; applauds the passing of the Sustainable Communities Bill, with all-party support; and calls on the government to ensure that policy development supports the objectives of this campaign.”
Last night the MP said it was vital to stand up for local businesses.
“All of us, particularly in rural constituencies, see the real threats to local shops,” he said. “The great danger is that communities will lose their diversity and vibrancy. That's why I'm pleased to support the EDP's campaign.”
EDP deputy editor Pete Waters welcomed the all-party support for the newspaper's campaign. “Many of our local independent shops are suffering from the predatory behaviour of large national companies and politicians should take this into consideration when thinking about planning laws and the kind of environment and communities we want to live in. There needs to be some protection for local traders so that we not only keep a thriving local economy but also retain our own unique local identity. We don't want our market towns to become clone towns, we don't want charmless homogenised high streets and we don't want the local traders in our city to be muscled out by the big boys. There is every indication that local independent shops not only improve the character of an area, and help attract visitors, but also put more back into that local community, helping it to thrive and prosper.”
Speaking about today's free Shop Local magazine, Mr Waters added: “This is an indication of the strength of feeling felt by local traders. Many of the area's largest independent retailers are backing this initiative, and together we're asking our readers to think about using local shops to do their Christmas shopping and to support our local communities.”
The campaign has previously received the support of Tory leader David Cameron. Writing in the special EDP Shop Local supplement, Tory leader David Cameron again sets out his vision for vibrant local communities. “If we care about our communities, and the local, independent retailers that give them their character, then it is our responsibility to support them - not just by signing petitions and joining campaigns, but with our cash,” he writes.