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The influence of symbolic and emotional meanings of rural facilities on reactions to closure: The case of the village supermarket
- Christiaanse, Suzan, Haartsen, Tialda
- Journal of rural studies 2017 v.54 pp. 326-336
- elderly, people, rural areas, supermarkets, surveys, villages, Netherlands
- In depopulating rural areas, one of the main issues is how to deal with the decline of local facilities such as schools, post-offices and shops. It is often feared that closure of a local facility will negatively affect the accessibility of that service and the liveability of the village. This paper examines how villagers experience the loss of a small local supermarket. Building on the concept of sense of place, we examine how people's attitude towards place-change relates to the functional, social, symbolic and emotional meanings a supermarket can have for individuals and for a community. A survey (n = 312) was conducted shortly before the closure of the supermarket in Ulrum, a depopulating village in the rural North of the Netherlands. The results show that negative evaluation of closure can be explained by individual emotional attachment to the supermarket and by the general symbolic value of a supermarket for a village. Contradictory to popular belief, perceptions of decreasing accessibility or diminishing liveability do not exemplify why many residents react negatively to the closure of the supermarket. In the Dutch rural context, access is only an issue for a relatively small group of people consisting mostly of elderly and less mobile citizens, while large groups of villagers may react negatively to closure of rural facilities. We propose that in different international contexts people may experience senses of loss and can react negatively to facility-decline due to the social, symbolic and emotional meaning of rural facilities.