Drawing on what you have learned about City Road, outline some of the inequalities on a street that you know.
The purpose of this assignment is to outline some of the inequalities on a street that I know, namely Balham High Road, in order to draw comparisons to that on City Road.
Balham High Road forms part of the A24 which runs from Clapham to Tooting, south west London. It appears a typical high street serving a local population of 21,000 and provides a variety of retail options, banks and numerous coffee shops. It is well served by public transport with both the Northern Line tube and overground rail into Victoria via Clapham Junction. Balham is served by at least four bus routes providing links to a wide range of destinations. In addition, there is one night bus route that runs through the town centre. The street has witnessed a significant change in recent years with private sector investment assisting in ‘upgrading’ the area. There are an abundance of restaurants and bars which provides evening entertainment in a buzzy atmosphere.
Despite the higher than average proportion of affluent residents, there is an unequal division of wealth and this will form part of my discussion, particularly in relation to shopping and housing. I will then move on to discuss the inequalities that exist in the Polish immigrant community.
One of the first things that struck me when comparing the subject street to City Road was the inequality relating to the type of shops i.e. the number of branded retailers in comparison to independent traders. ‘The Street’ DVD showed several examples of prosperous independents such as the Sari Shop and Xquisite Africa whereas Balham High Road appears a clone of most other London high streets accommodating the usual suspects – WH Smiths, Boots, Carphone Warehouse along with Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. A few independent shops exist but many have shut down over recent years due to unfair competitive pressure from the multiples and more recently the banks who are adding further pressure by not lending to smaller businesses.
Learning Companion 1 asks that we bear in mind a question asked by Simon Bromley, How are inequalities produced? The obvious inequality between the busy, wealthy high street retailers that occupy prime retail space and that of the poorly stocked independents who are being pushed out of the high street is a trend seen across the high streets in the country and came about from 1996 when the ‘town centre first’ policy redirecting retail developments from out of town back into the town centres emerged. In addition, demand on time means its easier for consumers to buy everything they need in a supermarket, rather than the time consuming exercise of buying meat from the local butcher, potatoes from the market and so on.
Another inequality relates to housing. Balham High Road contains a mix of social and private housing. The obvious inequality here is between those that can afford to purchase their own property or rent privately and pay the associated costs (utilities, council tax etc) and those on little or no income who cannot and require subsidised living. Further inequalities exist such as the environment and quality of these dwellings. Damp is much more common in low income homes as is overcrowding which leads to health problems and antisocial behaviour. The private dwellings on Balham High Road tend to be high spec new apartments or large detached buildings and are all well maintained with double glazing, private parking and some with alternative energy solutions.
Despite the above, it must be noted that in terms of condition of buildings, the Labour government introduced the Decent Homes Standard in 2000 and this assisted in improving the condition of public housing. This agenda is still active. It could be perceived that the inequality tends towards the private sector who are obliged to pay for the upgrade and maintenance of their properties whilst also incurring taxes etc.
The final inequality I noticed is in the Polish community. There are two Polish shops, along with a community centre and a church. The Polish population in Balham has hugely increased since 2006, though Balham has been one of the centres of the community in London since World War II. In order for such a presence to exist, the Polish population here at one time must have felt isolated and their needs not catered for as did the proprietor of Xquisite Africa.
The purpose of this paper was to highlight some of the inequalities on a street I know and compare where possible to that of City Road using the study materials provided. Balham High Road, like City Road was similar in terms of diversity but perhaps not in terms of housing which I hope I have gone some way to expand upon.
Blakely, G., Clarke, J., Raghuram, P., Silva, E., and Taylor, S., (2009) Learning Companion 1, Introducing the social sciences: part one, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
‘The Street’ (2009) Making Social Lives (DVD), Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Having not studied in many years, the most difficult part of this assignment was determining how to approach it. I overcame this by watching the DVD and reading the associated material, then I studied my subject street from the vantage point of a coffee shop and wrote down a plan for the structure and content. I struggled most with keeping to the point and providing a focussed piece of writing.