I moved to Stirling 4 years ago next month and I can say that it was love at first sight. The bustling town centre, the glorious hills and mountains in the distance, the surprisingly diverse population (due in large part to the University in town). It was a fantastic city that you could feel the edges of, perfect for this small town girl.
But things have begun to change. I don't know what has happened to my lovely town or when it happened. Maybe it was when the tall and wide tower of modern flats rose behind the railway station, blocking the view of the Ochils. Maybe it was when the town centre's leisure centre closed and the new one was built about 2 miles out of town. Maybe it was with the ill fated bridge between the new town quarter and the existing city centre...called the "bridge to nowhere" as it was a year and £100,000 over run and it goes to...nowhere really. Maybe it was the loss of the post office, who held fort in a beautiful old building, across from the main town bus stops, now moved to upstairs in a shop in the shopping mall. Or the economy, or the natural ebb and flow of populations or...
Though I can't pin point the where and when, it has happened. The post office has been replaced with a chain of pubs notorious in the UK for selling under-priced alcohol and fuelling binge-drinking. As shops empty, some become home to the range of business that aim to prey on the poor and vulnerable, but most just sit empty with a rubbish and mail piling up.
And its happening everywhere, not just here. Across Britain, town centres have been emptying for years, first in favour of out-of-town indendikit shopping, then the economy. Its a particular loss in an area that doesn't have high car ownership rates, and many of those people most in need of accessible town centres (the poor, women with children and the elderly) are left with ghost towns. And the community as a whole is left without much of a "third place", an informal meeting place where old and new are welcomed for informal community engagement, the anchor of community life, and its a loss that is too great to bear.
And so, before they are gone completely, please, I beg you: shop local, use your town centre, take it back from the tumbleweeds.
Rant over, stepping down from soap box and heading to work...