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Free to Good Home

I’m a member of the local “Freegle” site where folk offer and ask for goods that are no longer wanted. It was good to find a home for our old, but prefectly usable, three piece suite through the site.

The system works where an email is sent with an offer or wanted heading and then when the goods are taken or received then an email will be sent with those headings.

Thus you’ll get an email like this:

It is not known if the recipient had a free ticket for the Dumbarton Football Stadium on Saturday.

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Centred

It is a fact of modern life.

Town centres in the UK are struggling and dying. At the same time out of town retail, even in a recession is booming.

Commercial premises in town centres nationwide are lying empty whilst brown and green field sites are being snapped up for the erection of huge single story barns.

David Cameron’s solution to all of this was to appoint the “Queen of Shops” Mary Portas to come up with a plan to revive town centres.

If ever there were an initiative to sum up the term “token gesture” then this is it.

Until and unless the relentless spread of sheds like some viral knotweed is addressed properly via the planning system, then attempts to address the ghost towns are doomed to failure.

The Guardian have not been alone in recent months in highlighting the fact that supermarket companies currently have plans to build 44.4 million square feet of new retail space in the next few years.

To put that in some sort of perspective, that is more than 7 million square feet MORE than Tesco’s entire current estate.

Deathwatch?

In Helensburgh where I live, there were recently two competing planning applications from rival supermarkets. One was for a site in the town centre near the pier on the seafront and the other was for an undeveloped site out of town.

Waitrose field of dreams. Build it and they will come.

The Waitrose plan for an out of town site, despite planning officers previously advising rejection under the Scottish government’s planning guidelines which recommend a sequential approach to these matters, were later accepted.

Many local residents were in high dudgeon about the competing Sainsbury’s plan for the the seafront. The fact that it is, and has been for 30 years, a potholed car park on reclaimed land has never attracted much comment.

From the point of view of retaining footfall in the town centre the pier site would surely have been preferable?

In fact a reasonable case could be argued that a town with a population of fewer than 18,000 and which already has two supermarkets perhaps doesn’t need another one at all.

As it is, the new Waitrose Store from projected figures will attract a spend of something in the region of £15 million per year.

Think of the jobs!

Ah yes the jobs. That is the carrot dangled in front of local authorities to allow such developments to go ahead.

Talking in round figures there are around 700 people employed in Helensburgh Town Centre which has a retail spend in the region of £32 million.

To employ someone, even at minimum wage with employment costs added, it costs £20,000 per year. Assuming that businesses work on an average profit margin of roughly one third then this means that £60,000 is required through the till to employ one person.

If Waitrose take even half of their projected turnover from existing town centre business (£7.5 million) then the conclusion has to be that job losses in the centre will be in the region of 120.

How many will Waitrose employ? As many as 120 full time (or equivalent in part time) jobs? I think not.

Evidence shows that using conventional accelerator calculations, for every £10 spent in an independent shop, £25 is generated for the local economy compared to £14 spent in multiples.

Any serious attempt to regenerate town centres lies with the planning and taxation systems

A moratorium or much stricter guidelines on out of town centres would be a start.

Mary Poppins’s Portas’s prescription smacks of putting bandages on gaping wounds and lipstick on corpses.