Wednesday, 24 April 2013

It's not wrong, but it is happening

North Norfolk is blessed with great places to shop and eat. No question about that - and clearly they're wanted or they wouldn't keep opening. But are they? When a new supermarket is proposed, a predictable uproar ensues.  The death of the High Street. The growth of anonymous standardisation. The loss of money cycling within the local economy.  But what about the growth of the farm shop and the garden centre?

On the face of it, what possible objection could there be? Local jobs for local people and all particular to the area.  But the reality is possibly different.  What starts as a shed selling locally grown fruit on a seasonal basis, realises that it can expand its business year round by diversifying what it grows, or (very quietly) buying in.  They have space, crucially they have parking and they're not seen as incomers or corporate big bad business.  There then follows a cake shop, because we all like home-made baking.  Then a butcher. Then a country clothes shop - and so it goes.

We all know them.  They're great places to go, the right people go there. The fit-outs get trendier, the cafe's start competing with local pubs and in some cases start their own restaurant. But at what cost? Not surely the sacred High Street?  This is creating new demand or so the story goes, but I'm not so sure. It's great to see local outlets supporting local makers and suppliers but it doesn't stretch the imagination to see that the local butchers, bakers and delis with the overheads and limitations of village and town locations will start to feel the pinch - maybe even relocate themselves - and the rural High Street (if such a thing exists) will have gone. Just as the Banks, Post Offices, and Pubs have largely gone to be replaced by sensitive residential conversions - 'The Old Bank' - so my guess is that the remaining food shops are next.  Leaving the convenience store if you're lucky...  and people like us.

It's not wrong, but it is happening because thats the way we live now. Just saying.

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