Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 23 February 2012


The canal system in our country used to be the main way of transporting freight. Along came the railways and the waterways fell into disuse, until they were re-invented for leisure purposes. Telegraph poles carrying phone lines to every house was a distinctive feature of our countryside, now gradually falling into disuse, to be replaced by ugly phone masts supporting the mobile phone system. Many young people no longer have landlines. Times change, technology moves us on and the physical and social infrastructure of the country reflects that.

Similarly, our high streets used to be the retail lifeblood of our communities, with a shop of every kind catering to our every need. Then along came out of town supermarkets and pulled the rug from underneath our town centres and high streets. These hyper-stores offered much wider choice, lower prices and free parking. Before anybody gets on their high horse about how policy makers should have stopped this from happening, the reason they were so successful was that we the consumers, almost universally, chose to shop there.

Now another threat looms large on the horizon: internet shopping. You may have never have tried this yet and may have no intention of so doing, but internet sales are rising exponentially. The younger generation are increasing surfing the net and buying most of their products; books, clothes and food online. And it all arrives on your doorstep the next day. What could be easier?

There are strong community reasons why we should not let our high streets die. They are the heartbeat of most communities and provide many social as well as retail functions. And yet, as someone famously once said: you cannot buck the market.

The government has commissioned a report into what we can do to keep our town centres alive and is now considering the report that Mary Portas has produced. This is of huge relevance to our communities in Ivybridge, Plympton and Plymstock. These secondary shopping centres will not compete any longer if they focus only on retail. They must become places you go to for an experience, a day out. They must offer leisure and social amenities if they are to survive. Reasonably cheap (or free) parking is essential.

In these days of restricted budgets we cannot expect government to drive this significant change. Town centre businesses, town councils, landlords and residents themselves must take the lead if these vital hubs are to survive and flourish.

posted by Gary @ 00:01