Local shops

Last week I was campaigning in Redditch, a new town built in the 1960s.

I was taken to see a small shopping centre on a council estate.  Once thriving, the shops are now struggling, some were boarded up, the centre was run down, and few people were there.

Planners wanted to provide local shops for the community.  But in the age of out of town supermarkets, the small units have lost customers.

I was struck that today's central planners are about to repeat the mistake by trying to build a so-called 'eco' town at Ford, in the ludicrous belief that it will be self-contained because half of the population won't use cars.

We've already seen 'supermarket blight' locally.  Slindon has lost its village pub, shop and now its post office, one after the other, so that now only houses will remain.  Pulborough's high street has struggled since Tesco opened its doors.

There's a huge dilemma here.  Most of us use supermarkets.  We enjoy the parking, convenience, range of produce and the prices.  But the relentless march of these superstores comes at a great price.

Perhaps a Waitrose in Storrington - unlike out of town stores - will be beneficial.  No doubt we'll debate the pros and cons, but in the end people vote with their feet - or their shopping baskets.

Discussing this issue with a local organic producer the other day, I remarked that I felt bad every time I used a supermarket.   He had a good reply: you don't have to ban or boycott supermarkets.  Just try to use local shops whenever you can.

That seemed good advice.  We can't turn back the clock or uninvent Tesco, but we can try to support our local shops and producers as much as possible.  To coin a phrase, every little helps.

Michelle Taylor