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WI to launch town centres campaign

The decline of the UK's high streets and town centres is to be debated by the Women's Institute at its annual meeting.

Every year the organisation picks an issue for its 210,000 members to campaign on both locally and nationally.

Previous causes given its backing include calls for more midwives and the Care Not Custody project - which demanded an end to inappropriate detention of mental health sufferers.

As the economy continues to stagnate, the WI says the plight facing town centres and local shops cannot be ignored any longer.

A spokeswoman said: "We are campaigning on this issue because the high street is often a community hub, and provides much more than merely a place to shop. Many older people and those without cars rely on the high street for their daily and weekly shop.

"When high street shops close, individuals are forced to travel to out of town shopping centres. The decrease in footfall leads to a vicious cycle of falling numbers of shoppers and shop closures. It also jeopardises other town centre amenities dependent on a critical mass of consumers, such as banks, solicitors, doctors and libraries. These are in danger of either closing or moving to out of town centres."

The WI said the situation had arisen largely due to the continued rise of internet shopping and reductions in consumer spending, as well as the dominance of major supermarkets.

Officials hope the organisation's clout in terms of its membership size could influence policy decisions in Westminster as well the devolved administrations.

The event, which takes place in the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, will begin with the traditional singing of the hymn Jerusalem.

Guest speakers will include comedian Griff Rhys Jones, broadcaster John Humphrys and Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross.


From Belfast Telegraph