There was a time when we would take popping to the local shops for granted. We wouldn’t need to make a journey into a major town to get basic shops and services – they would be a few minutes walk away. Increasingly we’re finding that the corner shops and local bank branches are shutting up shop. This is not new, but the last few years have hit local retailers hard and 1 shop in 7 is now vacant on England’s high streets.
Yesterday, Living Streets launched their Neighbourhood Heroes campaign to let the government know how much we care about our local shops. They believe the government can change the planning system to protect our neighbourhoods by closing a loophole in the system. For instance, banks can change to a betting shop without planning permission – 81% think that communities should have a say when the use of a building is changed.
More than a quarter of adults (28%) feel isolated, or have a friend or loved one who feels isolated, because of a lack of access to essential shops and services within walking distance. These familiar stories show the realities of losing a neighbourhood with a bustling community life:
“Our shop is the hub of the area: it displays local news and events and customers even get free samosas at Christmas as a thank you. There is no other shop nearby and if it closed many people, particularly those who are not so mobile, would feel much more isolated.” Nigel, Cardiff
“When I lived in an area which had a baker, corner shop and polling station within a couple of minutes’ walk, I would walk there, and talk to and acknowledge people as I went. Now I just tend to do shopping on my way from work. I go behind my front door and only go out again if I really have to.” Viv, Worcestershire
If you want to do more to make sure your neighbourhood doesn’t lose local shops and services, you could join Age UK’s Change One Thing campaign. Whether it is access to shops or improving pavements, we’re supporting local groups to change the practical things that can make the difference between being stuck at home and being able to get out and about in the local area.