East Street set to undergo major facelift

June 28 2019
East Street set to undergo major facelift

Illustrations depicting a new vision for East Street are set to be unveiled this month.

The designs, drawn up by architects Purcell, who are based in Bedminster Parade, are a result of various consultation events and surveys carried out with local people and an identified need to revitalise the area, which is said to have suffered a “progressive post-war decline”.

Among the feedback, there was strong support for an active night-time economy, a child-friendly environment, a community hub, high street essentials, independent retailers and good transport links.

In a report by Purcell, compiled in response to feedback, it states changing retail patterns and “ill-judged” planning decisions in East Street have resulted in reduced footfall, loss of big stores such as Argos, ahigh levels of shop vacancies, a “crippling” lack of investment and a rise in anti-social behaviour, among other issues.

The high street will also have to meet the needs of the many new residents who will be accommodated in the impending local developments, such as Bedminster Green.

At the time South Bristol Voice went to print, the proposals for East Street were being finalised with the Bedminster Business Improvement District (BID) team.

But the ideas that can be shared include integrating street art along the high street, extending opening hours, widening pavements to include market stalls, external seating and play spaces, creating space for street trees, raised beds and ‘pocket parks’, creative workspaces and event spaces, additional storeys to allow for new residential accommodation, and bin shelters.

A cost has not been confirmed for the project, but the BID team says that it could be funded through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – money paid by developers to support the development of the area – or through the government’s Future High Streets Fund initiative, which is worth £675m.

Residents will be able to view the illustrations at the East Street Fair on Saturday, July 13 and will be published in the next issue of South Bristol Voice. 

Simon Dicken, BID chair, said: “The BID has been going for six years and from the beginning, one of the highest priority projects and biggest investment for us was to find a way to upgrade East Street without losing the essence and DNA of what it is.

“We need to put the pedestrians first on a street where buses are managed better to make it much more attractive for shoppers and walkers to move around and encourage them to stop and relax.

“We want to make it a more vibrant and attractive street; in particular, more relevant to younger people who complain the street doesn’t appeal to them.

“We wish to bring a bit more colour to the place through street art and a comprehensive tree planting scheme that would see every bollard replaced with a tree ideally.

“This is early days but with a clear vision in place Bedminster will be much better placed to attract some of the increased funding that is being invested for high streets either as a result of new developments in the vicinity or national funding.

“We hope to share some of our exciting ideas of possible ‘before and after’ images of the street with you in these pages next month and will be hosting a consultation event on East Street in July.”

BID manager, George Grace, said: “I think people are a bit jaded hearing about fading high streets.

“But I’m afraid things are likely to get worse rather than better for places that don’t work really hard to improve and stay relevant.

“The rate of closures on high streets is increasing whilst the rate of openings is slowing down – it doesn’t take a genius to realise that this is doubly bad news for places like East Street.

“Next sectors to go are banks and travel agencies followed by fashion and even restaurants where the likes of Deliveroo are opening centralised kitchens on industrial estates for multiple restaurant brands in order to cut out visits to the high street entirely.

“But we can respond - not through price or choice even as the internet will always be more efficient. We can respond by creating a really good shopping, leisure and community experience.

“We need to freshen the place up and start to appeal to a wider range of businesses and customers who will hopefully come more often and stay longer.”