This Plan explores the nuts-and-bolts practicalities of relocalising the economy of the area. It argues that in a world of highly volatile oil prices, the need for stringent cuts in carbon emissions and economic uncertainty, the globalised economy upon which we are so dependent can no longer be relied upon, indeed it leaves us highly vulnerable. At the moment, Totnes and its surrounding parishes act like a large leaky bucket. Money pours into the area through wages, grants, pensions, funding, tourist revenues and so on. In our current economic model, most of it pours back out again, and its ability to make things happen locally is lost. Each time we pay our energy bill, that money leaves the area. Each time we shop in a supermarket, 80% of that money leaves the area. Every time we shop online, that money that could have bolstered our economy leaves the area. All the while, pressure grows on our local shops and businesses.
At the same time, local agriculture employs fewer and fewer people each year, more and more food is imported, new buildings are created from materials from around the world, and most of the goods sold in the shops of Totnes have travelled long distances to get there. The concept of localisation is about shifting the focus of production closer to home. It is not something that can be done overnight, it is a long-term process that requires planning, design and innovation. In many ways, the area is poised to take a national lead here, being home to a strong local food culture, and many innovative businesses.
Localisation is a powerful concept. Clearly Totnes cannot become self-sufficient, nor would it want to be. It will never be able to make computers or frying pans. However, as the oral history section of this report shows, it used to be far more self-reliant than it is today, functioning far more like a bucket than its present day leaky sieve. There is significant potential for Totnes and District to, for example:
- Produce most of its food locally, and create a range of livelihoods, processing and value-adding that food in the locality
- Source a significant proportion of its building materials, for both new build and retrofits, either from the local area or from recycling from the local waste stream
- Buy its energy from locally owned and managed energy companies rather than distant ones
- Maintain and enhance the proportion of shops in the town that are locally owned, and avoid the ‘Ghost Town Britain’ phenomenon seen in so many High Streets across the country
- Bring land for development into community ownership, so that the financial gains from that development accrue to the community, rather than to speculative developers
- Make medicines using local plants to treat common ailments
- Use its food wastes to create bio-methane to power vehicles
- Use local currencies and local investment mechanisms to enable more money to be invested in the immediate area
None of this will happen by accident, it needs careful planning and design. This Plan is a first attempt at trying to map out what the process of re-localisation might look like.
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