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BritainThinks: Local services crucial to keeping the community happy

27 November, 2012

A new report exploring the links between how happy people are with where they live and the shops and services in their area has been published today.

The 'Local Services, Happy Places' report, commissioned by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and conducted by research consultancy BritainThinks, proposes a host of measures designed to make communities better places to live.

The findings were presented by Ben Shimshon, director of BritainThinks at today's ACS Heart of the Community seminar at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.

The report discovered that while 76% of the British public are satisfied with the area within a ten minute walk of their home, having the day-to-day essentials available within a 10-minute walk of home was the most important driver of satisfaction.

Findings in the report include:

63% of British adults are satisfied with the facilities and amenities within 10 minutes walk of their front doors;


Feeling satisfied with the range and quality of shops, places to eat and drink and other local businesses – the "commercial infrastructure" - is the strongest driver of satisfaction with the facilities and amenities in a neighbourhood. Commercial infrastructure is more important than public services, transport links and community facilities;


Improving local commercial infrastructure is important not only for building satisfaction with local facilities and amenities, but also for increasing satisfaction with a neighbourhood overall – through the role that local businesses can play in making people feel more safe, in improving the appearance of an area, and in fostering a sense of neighbourliness and community;


As the most ubiquitous form of commercial infrastructure, making improvements in the quality of the independent convenience stores in a neighbourhood was found to have the most potential to improve satisfaction overall.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Local shops and other services are crucial to the way people feel about where they live. This report shines a light on an often forgotten part of our economy and provides a blueprint for how Government and Councils can help local shops and other services to cement their place in the heart of communities across the UK.”

Building on the findings from the report, ACS has published a list of recommendations designed to make communities better places to live. These include:

Councils must include in their “local plan” an objective that all residents have access to a local shop and other local services within ten minutes’ walk of their home;

 
Identify centres no longer of community value and propose strategy for change of use away from retail and other services to other uses such as residential;


Remove business rates for the first two years as an incentive to any business that fills a gap in the provision available to a local neighbourhood;


Capital allowances for anyone investing in bringing commercial property that has been out of use for a year back into use;


The Government should provide national insurance discounts for businesses that pay staff to engage in community activity.
 

Lowman said: “Businesses are plagued by rising costs in all areas, including unpredictable rates hikes and the ever-rising cost of hiring staff. Providing financial incentives to these entrepreneurs to allow them to regenerate local areas can have a tangible impact on the happiness of troubled communities.”

The Heart of the Community seminar featured a brief introduction by Mark Prisk MP, minister for housing and local growth; and a panel session with Priti Patel, Conservative MP for Witham; Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, and Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.