Chiswick Is A Clone Town According To New Survey
Unlike our 'homely' neighbours Brentford and Shepherd's Bush
Chiswick is a 'Clone Town' according to the widest ever Clone Town survey results released this week by leading independent think-tank nef (new economics foundation).
The Clone Town Britain Index measures both the identity and diversity of outlets on the core of the high street. It weights more for identity because ownership is critical to the health of the local economy and community. But diversity is important, and so is also included.
Towns scoring below 50 on the scale – like Chiswick - are classified as Clone Towns. Over half of the stores counted are chains, and there is little diversity.
Towns scoring over 65 are classified as Home Towns, where almost two thirds or more of the stores are independent, and there is a wide range of outlets. In between are ‘Border Towns,’ which are neither highly homogenised, nor strongly independent and diverse.
Nine of the 13 West London villages were registered as clone towns. Richmond tops the table with just five independents counted on its high street, suggesting Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith will have his work cut out in his campaign to create a retail association to save local independents.
At the other end of the scale only Shepherd’s Bush in addition to Brentford registered as a home town from West London. How long Shepherd’s Bush’s ethnically diverse Goldhawk Road, with 48 out of 52 shops classified as independent by our survey, can survive remains to be seen. The recession has neatly coincided with the opening of the largest urban area indoor shopping centre in Europe – ‘Westfield London’ – right next door, complete with over 250 chains stores.
Of the 18 London villages that were resurveyed from 2005, three worsened. Hampstead, Camden and Brixton all moved from border to clone status. There was better news on nearby ‘hills’, with Streatham Hill improving from a border to a home town and Muswell Hill from a clone to a border town.
Paul Squires, the co-author of the report said, “The towns most dependent on the big chains and out of town stores have proven to be most vulnerable to the economic crisis. The government’s “Big Society” idea cannot be built on these fractured local economies, represented so clearly by the empty shop fronts along our high streets.
“It’s not all doom and gloom. We found many towns that are thriving with initiatives to retain local diversity. The local currency schemes in Lewes and Brixton, for example; community buy-outs of post offices and pubs from Yorkshire to Cornwall; and loyalty cards for shopping at independent retailers from London to Penzance.”
Elizabeth Cox, co-author of the report added, “We need to completely re-evaluate what we use our high streets for now that the age of mass retail is juddering to a halt. Our high streets could become places where shopping is just one small part of a rich mix of activities including working, sharing, exchanging, playing and learning new skills. As the hub of our communities, the high street could become the place where we begin to build a more sustainable world.”
November 1, 2010