28 July 2014

A Guest Blog by Chantal Allison: #Transition Towns #Shepton Mallet

Why it's a 'No' to Timpson in Shepton
By Chantal Allison, from Transition Shepton.

Once again, the turning of the 'clone-town' screw is being felt in Shepton. One major argument for inviting large corporations into our local economy is to create jobs for local people. What doesn't get said is that these jobs are usually for minimum wage and are probably only part-time.

The proposal for a #Timpson, offering shoe repairs, key cutting, watch repair and dry cleaning will, I believe, create 2-3 full-time jobs at best. However,  three local businesses will be directly  affected;  The Shepton Cobbler, Wash Tub and C H Penns, the independent jewellers. That's at least eight jobs that I'm aware of that are at risk. This is not taking into account the impact on other businesses as the result of the reduced footfall in the High Street.

Timpson are a corporate entity in their own right, who  have over 1000 pods throughout the UK in #Tesco and Sainsbury's. This arrangement of course, works in favour of the supermarkets, since it encourages people to shop in their store, with a so-called one-stop, 'convenient' shopping offering.  

The one-stop shopping approach has at least two, perhaps unintended, consequences:

1/ All profits made from local labour is funnelled straight into the corporation's central coffers away from the local economy, thus further impoverishing the town. 

Local businesses do not do this. They promote the circulation of wealth within the local economy.

2/ A sense of community can diminish.

 A thriving High Street often creates and invigorates the local community.

Promoting local businesses is not just a romantic hankering for the good old days. Large corporations such as Tesco could not function without oil. They need it both in their distribution of food and goods and in the running of  their over-lit and over-refrigerated stores. This will become more difficult to sustain and justify as fossil fuels become more scarce and more expensive to extract. The move towards fracking is evidence that easy options for extracting fossil fuels are running out. The corporations will inevitably pass all the necessary price hikes on to you, the consumer. And if they're the only show in town, then they'll charge what they like.

Shepton needs a long term vision which ensures local businesses can thrive, local people can prosper, and the unique character of our High Street is promoted and preserved. The wider benefits of a prosperous and vibrant High Street is an increased sense of community for local people, more visitors who bring wealth into the local economy and perhaps most importantly, increased resilience against the anticipated price hikes in energy and oil.

Come on, Mendip District Council! Show some imagination and innovative thinking! Use your  committment to regenerating the High St by finding long term solutions that benefit the whole community. 

Allowing a Timpson outlet at Tesco in the Townsend Retail Park, is not the way to do it.

Thank you to Chantal Allison, from Transition Towns, for contributing to the My Coffee Stop Stories Blog.

Transition Shepton is part of the Transition Towns network, which is a nation-wide grass-roots movement  promoting ways of reducing the carbon footprint and encouraging towns to create their own initiatives.

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