Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shopping local: the benefits


Update on Tesco's plans to convert The Friendship in Knowle into one of their stores. The campaign against the plans is developing very well and I'm very happy to be playing a decent role in it. To date the paper petition organised by local shopkeepers has several hundred signatures. My e-petition has a respectable 67 signatures so far and has I note fairly recently been signed by Cllr Mark Wright (who is also the Prospective Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol South). I have submitted two letters of objection, have helped other people to voice their opinions (for and against!!) and will submit a statement to the council planners on the benefits of local shops (below) today. I've written direct to Tesco Corporate Affairs Manager Juliette Bishop (who has yet to even acknowledge it let alone reply!). Several news stories have gained publicity for the issue (eg here and here) and letters have been published in the local paper (eg here). The resulting online discussion has been very lively!

With other local campaigners I've helped to get local councillors much more active on the issue, overcoming what appeared to be initial reluctance. To his credit Knowle's Lib Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins has now done some very useful work which I and others opposing Tesco's plans appreciate. The issue: has been given more time for consideration; will now be going to a planning committee (though no-one told any local that it was to have been delegated to officers!) probably on Tues 18 Feb at 2pm; its been made clear that the Tesco plan cuts across council policy favouring district shopping; a public meeting will be held to debate the issue on 16 Feb, 6.30pm, Redcatch Rd Community Centre and will hopefully gather together many locals, businesses etc. I plan to attend the 16 Feb public meeting to contribute and plan to make a statement and/or submit my e-petition to the 18 Feb planning committee meeting once details are confirmed.

It appears that the council have not yet informed local people about the changes to planning application deadlines and extended time available to comment/support/object!! Perhaps the local media will help to inform local people of the changes along with this blog.

There are concerns that unless shopping habits change, high streets, small ranks of shops and corner shops will disappear. Popping to the local shop for milk, bread or tea… will not be an option for many unless more shoppers change their ways. By supporting local shops we can help slow down and stop this decline and boost the local economy as well as help in the fight against climate change.

The Office of Fair Trading has looked at supermarket dominance, referring tha matter to the Competition Commission. Small shops are currently struggling to survive due to the power of the big supermarkets, with thousands of independent shops going out of business each year. Supermarkets power has become huge. The four biggest already control over three quarters of the grocery market. Tesco alone take 30 per cent and is still moving into neighbourhoods all over the country including Knowle (see:

The All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group warned in 2006 that many independent shops could be gone within a decade unless action is taken now to curb the power of the biggest supermarkets. Big supermarkets have announced plans to improve their environmental credentials, but shopping locally is still a better option, especially if you leave the car at home and buy locally-sourced food.

The range of benefits from local shops is excellent: greater likelihood of providing local food; they often offer a much more personal service; they keep money circulating in the local area supporting other local businesses; along with street markets they offer affordability without roping you via special offers and some slashed prices into more expensive purchases (a Friends of the Earth survey in 2003 found that apples were cheaper in greengrocers than supermarkets and in 2005 a study for the New Economics Foundation found that street markets in London were "substantially cheaper" than supermarkets for fruit and vegetables); they are more energy efficient than huge superstores – a study by Sheffield Hallam University showed that it would take more than 60 greengrocers to match the carbon dioxide emissions from just one average superstore (more here); a broad range of local shops provides more choice than one big supermarket.

The Competition Commission should enact measures to achieve a healthy balance between the big supermarkets and local shops – but consumers should not wait for such action because it could be too late for many local shops if they do.

Gaza: petition for a complete ceasefire, civilian protection, humanitarian assistance

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1000+ Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed. The death toll mounting daily. The Gaza offensive escalates. Action to end the violence and protect civilians is desperately needed. I've signed the petition (wording below) calling for robust international action to achieve an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and take further crucial steps toward a fair and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The message and numbers signing (which has already reached 500,000) will be published in US ads and delivered to key powers in the coming days:

Petition to the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the USA:

We urge you to act immediately to ensure a comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, to protect civilians on all sides, and to address the growing humanitarian crisis. Only through robust international action and oversight can the bloodshed be stopped, the Gaza crossings safely re-opened and real progress made toward a wider peace in 2009.

An adapted and edited version of the petition site.