Leading article: We can't resist market forces

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The Independent Online

In a world that is changing so fast, there is consolation to be found in identifying the things that stay the same. One of these, a survey has found, is the attraction of the English market town. Lloyds TSB has established that house-buyers are prepared to pay a £30,000 premium to live in one, compared with other locations in the same county.

It would seem that in the English mind, a market town is second only to the seaside as the place for the ultimate des res. And who should really be surprised? Market towns have much to teach today's city planners. They are human in scale. They are small enough to be communities and big enough to support decent services: shops, a GP surgery, a post office. They are walkable. They are mostly attractive to look at, with a character and a sense of place that is their own. Their proximity to the countryside allows an appreciation of the seasons as they pass. An early snowfall might make leaving difficult, but there are many worse places to stay put. No wonder this is where the Nimbys hang out.

Out-and-out romantics perhaps still hanker after rural isolation. For the ambitious, there is the buzz of the crowd and the pace of the big city. But for 21st-century realists, as for generations before them, an English market town is where it is at.