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This month with Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham

Christmas is coming, the turkeys are looking nervous and the retailers too. Officially we are now out of recession and Cheltenham weathered it better than many parts of the country. But the return to economic growth wasn’t greeted with great fanfare either here or in Westminster and with good reason. Apparently it included a good measure of Olympic adrenalin and also a bit of artificial bounce-back from the Jubilee celebrations earlier in the year, during which we all took so much holiday apparently that it actually depressed the economy. Personally I think that rather underlines the weakness of economic growth as an indicator of quality of life.

Mind you, there have been some green shoots of recovery showing quite strongly in the local retail sector. If you fancy an organic turkey lovingly reared within 8 miles of Cheltenham before it was killed, take a trip to the stunning new Whole Foods store just off the Tewkesbury Road. It is a wonderful celebration of fresh, organic and local roduce
expertly presented and marketed. Much of the food is unpackaged and you can buy as much as you need rather than what the store wants you to buy. And there isn’t a plastic bag in sight.

But if you want good quality, locally or ethically sourced Christmas fare without plastic bags you could just try the Natural Grocery Store or the two local independent butchers on the Bath Road. American multinational or not, Whole Foods is a positive development.

If it puts pressure on all the other big supermarkets to raise their game in terms of local sourcing, organic options and fresh, unpackaged food then it is very welcome. I remember a Tesco manager telling me years ago that overpackaging was the number one complaint from the customers that year. Yet still the major supermarkets seem devoted to wrapping everything in plastic that often seems to need a professional fire & rescue team to get into it. And years after struggling to get local beers like Battledown into larger stores, it’s good to see one has stocked up without being asked. Or you could drop in on Favourite Beers in Hewlett Road. Tell them I sent you. Happy Christmas!

Martin Horwood MP, 16 Hewlett Road, Cheltenham GL52 6AA; Tel: 01242 224889;;; @MartinChelt.