Viewpoint: 'Shop local' in Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings this Christmas
By Kelham Cooke, leader of South Kesteven District Council
Last week, the Christmas lights were switched on in Stamford, marking the countdown to the big day itself.
Christmas means different things to different people, but for many it is downtime with family and friends, the chance to catch-up with people, indulge in some festive fare , and watch the obligatory seasonal TV offerings. It is also the opportunity for some quiet time, the chance to reflect on the current year, make plans for the next, and, hopefully, count our blessings.
Recently, I read some research that claimed people who live in or near market towns are the happiest.
Apparently, it all comes down to that old chestnut, community spirit, with people feeling they have the best of both worlds – feeling connected to their communities, but with enough privacy when wanted. Having facilities nearby, but not at the expense of green open spaces, fields and fresh air.
This week, the council has been working with the Woodland Trust, planting trees to celebrate national tree week – an ambitious campaign to see one million trees planted throughout the UK.
Our environment is vitally important. And that goes for our high streets as well. Both are key to our quality of life.
This week marks the first anniversary of #ShopStamford, an initiative by independent retailers in Stamford to work together to better promote what the town has to offer in terms of shops and eateries. And recently, Grantham joined the national network #TotallyLocally.
Central to both these schemes is the idea of connecting people to place, promoting sustainability and supporting local retailers. Because of the changes in the way people shop, this is essential if our high streets are to not only survive, but to thrive.
As a council, I am determined that we should do everything we can to support our high streets whether that is improved car parking, wider regeneration, or sustainable growth that protects our heritage without stifling entrepreneurship.
But we can only do so much. The key to success, to pulling shoppers back into town centres, is the public and private sector working together, and residents supporting local shops. Not easy in these busy times, but if we pause to think local before we head to big shopping centres or reach for our digital devices, it will make a difference.
So when it comes to buying my Christmas presents, I will be looking local first. I am realistic, I know I may not find everything I want, but that is not point. It isn’t about spending every penny on our high streets, but it is about being aware that our local retailers have a lot to offer. So please join me this Christmas in #keepingitlocal.