BUSINESS: Keeping trade local – London’s small shops in decline
10:32am Thursday 26th August 2010 in News By Hannah Holdroyd, Federation of Small Businesses
On July 28 the London Assembly published Cornered Shops, a report into London’s small shops.
The report by the assembly’s planning and housing committee documents what it describes as the drastic decline of neighbourhood shops in the greater London region.
The committee concluded conclusively that more needs to be done to help keep London’s small shops in business.
Deputy chairwoman of the planning and housing committee Jenny Jones said: “People in residential areas need local shops that provide essential services that they can walk to.
"They do not need rows of betting shops and internet cafes, or to have to travel to supermarkets by car.
“The mayor must lead on changing the planning system to empower boroughs to take back control of their high streets and protect local shops from further decline.”
The committee found that London lost more than 7,000 independent shops between 2001 and 2007 and this loss had been further by the recession and economic downturn, markedly changing the capital’s local shopping centres.
Without more protection in the planning system, local neighbourhoods will continue to lose valuable local resources that provide people with convenient access to the goods and services they need on a day-to-day basis.
Local shops are central to reducing car use and creating sustainable neighbourhoods, and provide wider social and economic benefits.
The committee particularly focussed on what it described as “local” centres. These being the smaller neighbourhood shopping precincts and local parades that provide convenient access to goods and services that are needed on a daily basis, especially those that are accessible on foot, and also serve as a focus for a local neighbourhood.
It particularly identified Bexley as one of these local centres.
The committee made a number of recommendations to help stem the tide of small shop closures. These included:
The Mayor of London should ensure any supplementary planning guidance on retail policy gives borough planning committees support in the London Plan to confront developments that would threaten the viability and diversity of small and local shopping centres.
Local borough councils should ensure their local development frameworks contain policies that:
- Apply specifically to supporting small shops and neighbourhood shopping centres;
- Identify them as “key local services” or “essential services” that are central to the concept of “lifetime neighbourhoods”;
- Restrict change of use so as to protect shops within walking distance of residential areas (eg 400m);
- Protect small retail units from adverse impact from new retail development;
- Reflect the need the need for local small shops to be easily accessible via a full range of sustainable modes of transport in order to ensure their continued viability.
However the message is clear, it is now more important than ever for us to support our local small shops.
The Federation of Small Businesses runs a campaign called Keep Trade Local which encourages us all to patronise our local small businesses and shops.
The benefits of using local small businesses are many but did you know over 50 per cent of the turnover of independent retailers goes back into the local community, compared to just five per cent from supermarkets?
Furthermore, the carbon footprint, per sq metre, of a small shop is a fraction of that of a supermarket.
To find out more about the FSB’s Keep Trade Local campaign, read the online leaflet.
Hannah Holdroyd is the London policy officer for the Federation of Small Business, the UK’s leading business organisation. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org