Suggested campaign to remove unnecessary regulations from independent businesses

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Posted Aug 19 2015 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
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Three things have happened to me recently that have made me realise that local, independent and/or community-owned businesses have been put at a huge disadvantage as regards regulations that cover their activities, and the independent sector is being unnecessarily penalised for the damaging activities of the corporate sector. Licencing or specialist equipment are easily affordable by large operations, but are often beyond the reach of small businesses, and the economies of scale and tax avoidance of the big boys is unattainable by the little guys as well.

First, we had a new bathroom put it, and we tried to do it as sustainably and non-corporately as possible. But it’s difficult. Our builder – a really good guy – says basically that sustainable and independent is more expensive than toxic and corporate. He’d like to just work with sustainable and independent materials, but people won’t pay the extra.

We also went on a yurt holiday on an organic farm in Wales. They renovated a 17th century farmhouse, but they had to fight the planners all the way because they wanted to condemn it. She produces fantastic mature cheddars but she can’t sell them because she can’t afford the stainless steel units or the licence (which is ridiculously expensive). Someone at Environmental Health questioned why she wanted to make cheese in the first place, and told her that people should get their cheese from supermarkets, to make sure it’s safe. She can’t sell her home-made wines or meat either, for similar reasons. Now Environmental Health is coming into her home trying to cause her problems when it comes to feeding WWOOFers. We cooked in her kitchen and it’s gorgeous. The food is home-produced and superb. The idea that her cheeses or her food are in any way a health risk is absurd, and the Environmental Health officer who suggested that supermarkets are the safest way to obtain our food would benefit from education about risk analysis and the various horrors associated with a corporate takeover of our food supply.

Finally, our friend Jon at Sharenergy helps community energy projects to set up, but they can’t provide electricity for their members because the licence is too expensive, so they have to sell it to the grid at 4p per unit and buy it back at 17p per unit.

How could that be? Don’t we want to encourage locally-produced, organic food, natural homes, clean energy, quality, craft goods, a healthy environment, strong communities?

If so, then let’s remove unnecessary regulations and licensing from independent and community-owned businesses, and let’s help people build their own off-grid homes on organic smallholdings. Let’s change the planning system to encourage that rather than hinder it.

I think it’s a very winnable campaign, because it’s such a popular cause, and organisations as diverse as Corporate Watch and the Women’s Institute will love it. I imagine that the Permaculture and Transition movements would be interested, and even our local Tory parliamentary candidate said he’d support it.

We’ll be talking to other organisations about how to take this forward. Watch this space.