Saturday, December 02, 2006

Homeworkers and local communities

The role which homeworkers/shedworkers play in keeping local communities thriving is an increasingly important one. Anna Minton, a well-respected commentator on issues concerning society and planning/building issues including What Kind of World Are We Building? The Privatisation of Public Space, published by and available at RICS has this to say in the most recent issue of The Shed magazine.

"Like many older people, carers and parents stuck at home, the shedworker has few people to talk to face-to-face during the working day so the thriving life of the local high street is particularly important. But all around the country, there is growing concern at the increasing sameness and sterility of the high street, with the same chain shops and bars squeezing out small shops, be they local cafes or bookshops.

"Now, this accelerating trend is expected to get a major boost courtesy of Chancellor Gordon Brown who has commissioned a major review of the planning system by top Bank of England economist Kate Barker. Instead of talking to people in local communities, the review commissioned management consultants McKinsey who argued that there is too much employment “in relatively inefficient corner shops and specialist shops”, adding that big stores of more than 3,000 square metres are far more efficient.

"Consequently the implication is that the planning system should be relaxed to allow these big retailers, such as ASDA and B&Q, to have an even bigger presence on the high street, at the expense of smaller shops which give places their character and identity. The review, which is due out sometime before Christmas, is expected to back the McKinsey recommendations, which will have a huge impact on the high street.

"Because these issues receive little coverage in the media (see here) few people are aware of how important such changes to the planning system are to the survival of our local communities. But if voters, particularly those who both live and work in their local communities, become aware of what is going on, perhaps the Chancellor will be forced to listen.

"If you feel strongly about the issue, what can you do to make your voice heard? You can read about one campaign which is already underway at Local Works and sign up online. The organisers are encouraging people to use their local shops, including homeworkers who are great contributors to the local economy through spending time and money in their neighbourhood. Also, Local Works is promoting a private member's bill, the Sustainable Communities Bill, which would require councils and communities to promote local shops. This has cross-party support."

For a free copy of The Shed email me here.

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