We are sad, but not surprised, to see that Cambridge is now the capital of clone town Britain.
Over the last few years we have all seen the way that supermarkets and chain stores have increased their grip on our small city, and the way that local, independent business have struggled with Cambridge’s sky-high rents.
Local businesses are part of the communities they serve, putting far more money back into them than the large chain stores, which drain money from local economies. Local businesses are often cheaper, too – a local greengrocers or market stall will sell fruit and vegetables at a fraction of the prices charged by supermarket convenience stores, for example, and often source food locally. Where there are thriving local businesses, everyone benefits; once they’ve gone, we can’t get them back.
Cambridge’s last MP championed the idea of an independent business zone but we have seen no progress on this interesting idea, and there seems to us to be a sad lack of official interest in stopping our city from losing even more of its character and the special benefits that local, independent businesses bring.
But thankfully this isn’t the whole story.
Many parts of Cambridge still have flourishing independent businesses and local residents that support them. On Mill Road, the annual Winter Fair is a wonderful reminder of the area’s diversity. On Mill Road, too, the Milly Card scheme shows how everyone benefits when local people and local business work together.
Last week, Cambridge made headlines as the home of the world’s best university. This week, it’s in first place on a list that no town wants to top. We hope that this embarrassment for our city will encourage officials and politicians to think seriously and creatively about ways to help local businesses and the communities that rely on them.