Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Building Resilient Trading - Economics & Livelihoods Group

Colman Opticians, which has been trading on St. Augustines Street for many years, and Junk & Gems, a new retro/antiques shop

Ever since I first proposed a visioning session on behalf of the economics and livelihoods group, I have been asked the same questions multiple times - why should Transition Norwich be interested in local economic development, and what do I hope to achieve by a "visioning" session in St. Augustines Street?

The first has a simple, but long-winded answer, which I won't be able to cover fully here, but I'll include links to relevant websites and videos. Essentially, a vibrant and cohesive local economy means that more products and services are accessible on foot or cycle, reducing transport carbon emissions and oil use; money is kept in the local economy, and its power to serve local people multiplies as a result; and the community is more able to face challenges together and respond to global shocks quickly.

Numbers 74 and 75 are both being redecorated and fitted out for commercial use, the latter as a hairdresser, the former unknown.

So what do we hope to achieve by "visioning"? Afterall, none of us are capable of noting a community's wants and desires one day and plonking it on the street the next. And to do so, even if we could, would, I feel, be denying the community the right to evolve its own nature and personality in accordance with all those who reside and work there (the reason why many New Towns and blanket developments have spectacularly failed to achieve strong communities).

What we hope to achieve is an ongoing conversation between those who live and work in the area, so that cooperation is at the core of what the community does and there is a common sense of what the area means to people, and what it should become. It is, I feel, the second question on the visioning questionnaire (see below) that is most important - What personality would you like the area to have?
Numbers 31 and 33 are both undergoing extensive work but will be open as commercial properties at a later date

With this information in place, we can start bringing together the people who might make it happen. If traders are concerned that a particular empty shop is having an effect on their business, then we can try to identify the owner, find an entrepreneur who is looking for a place to trade from, help identify grants which may apply to bring the property into good repair and then setup a traders' association so that new and old businesses support each other.

Now, this is just an example, and in truth, something which appeared viable may be found not to be, and alternative paths must be explored... but this is the entire point of the exercise - to explore what paths are there, rather than making the assumption that there are none and that empty properties will remain so forever.

Numbers 5 and 59 are both boarded up and in need of some love and care, but number 5, with its prominent position with plenty of pavement space at the bottom of the street gives it loads of potential! The owners are not known.

I thank those who have sent back their questionnaires with their answers and will be getting in touch soon to share any analysis, but if you're interested in the future of St Augustines Street, it's not too late to get involved! Just answer these questions (with particular focus on b!):
a) What shops/services/facilities would you like to use/see locally?
b) What personality would you like the area to have?
c) What particular changes would have a positive effect on your life/business?
d) What would save you money, resources or wasted time?
e) What do you or your business have to offer to the development of the local economy in terms of premises, time and/or expertise?

You can email your answers to me at simeon@simeonjackson.co.uk

All photos taken by me.

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