Out towns and high streets need restoration of civic pride

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From: RC Curry, Adel Grange Close, Leeds.

The Government initiative to examine the problems of declining town centres, together with the recent television publicity about Dewsbury’ s problems, throws up many faults incurred over the years (Yorkshire Post, December 14). Also, local suburban shopping areas have been hit hard with too many now being limited to hairdressers and estate agents.

The mad rush to allow out of town supermarket areas, with free parking for all while continually raising town centre charges, created a disaster from the word go. Even now, some authorities are aiding the last bastions of local township life to be killed off by allowing more, such as in Malton and Harrogate.

Business rates lost from empty town centres may not be offset by those paid by supermarkets.The amount of waste and gross effect on pollution by supermarket packaging has blighted the country, incurring vast costs on authorities to alleviate.

However, it would be wrong to hang guilt solely on the supermarkets. One Parliamentary Act which did no good to local township community life was the 1972-4 legislation which reduced proud towns to the status of minor parish councils, while creating monstrosities of administration.

Centralising public services has drawn people away from peripheral and rural townships. This move has not just been for the councils, but some police, fire services and law courts have followed suit, so even such as lunch time shopping has become centralised.

Some towns have retained or resurrected town councils and mayors but these are shadows of the former offices.

Further, efficiencies envisaged by the 1970s Act have long ago been offset by the expansion of administration, rules and regulations, so beloved of authority local or otherwise, into centralised civic buildings.

This central grip of power has created intervening money wasting systems which block efficiency and local community effectiveness.

Further, those who represent towns such as Dewsbury are cogs in the large wheel of the central councils and may opt for the central power base rather than the outposts of their communities.

The big hitters of local areas, many of whom gave of their time voluntarily, have been discouraged from standing and fighting for their towns.

There are exceptions, such as in Morley where independence is to the front of their thinking, but too many smaller towns have succumbed to semi-anonymity within the larger combines. In rural areas the factor of distance creates more problems.

What is needed now is a resurgence of local township civic pride and strong action to bring back life to the high streets and suburban centres.

Instead of electing Mayors to the large bodies with more administration, costs and political infighting (as experienced in Doncaster), there needs to be more emphasis on local management to support and develop local communities.

Mary Portas might have some ideas, but more local business people need to be involved in local councils with the power to act. They might be less willing to sign away their markets to outsiders.

From: Mrs JE Simpson, Pasture Rise, Bridlington.

LAST Christmas, I was recovering from a knee replacement “op” and I had just got walking around when all the bad weather arrived. We could not get out; no buses, taxis etc and there was no way we could walk.

Then there was a brief lull and we managed to buy gift vouchers etc. I think the vouchers were far better received and we were not trailing round shops looking for suitable gifts. That is what I shall be doing this year.

I look round and see all these gifts for sale and in this economic climate most of them can be done without. I am sorry retailers, but some of you have got greedy. I am sorry for the staff worried about their jobs, but I am afraid utility bills and food come before silly gifts.