Vision unveiled to revive South Bristol high street

May 28 2021
Vision unveiled to revive South Bristol high street

A prominent south Bristol high street, which has fallen into "steep decline" in recent years, is set for a much-needed boost.

By Becky Day

A new masterplan was unveiled for East Street by Bedminster's Business Improvement District (BID) on May 12 and follows extensive consultation with the local community.

It is anticipated that the work to execute the 'East Street Vision' will cost in the region of £5-£10 million and will take between two and five years to implement. 

The vision includes plans to make East Street a "pedestrian prioritised" street, create space for outdoor dining, increase the number of rest and play spots and restore the street's listed buildings.

Buses, which currently run up to 350 times a day along East Street, would eventually be redirected along Dalby Avenue with service access to East Street via Dean Street.

A key focal point will be the creation of East Street Square - a community green space in Cannon Street, which will be used for markets and other organised gatherings.

One of the ambitions of the plan is to make East Street a "green street", with the installation of trees and plants along the road to enhance biodiversity and attractiveness of the street.

Art will also play a key feature with a series of local art projects including "groundscape, street and facade art".

 The project has been led by Bedminster BID and has been supported by the council, as well as the developers involved in the Bedminster Green scheme.

It has also won the support of local councillors, including Tony Dyer and Tessa Fitzjohn who attended the event on May 12.

Plans to rejuvenate East Street will be funded through various local authority and government grants, such as the West of England Combined Authority's (WECA) Love Our High Streets fund and the Bristol mayor's capital recovery grant.

The street has lost a number of large retailers in recent times with big players such as Argos and Boots and several banks leaving buildings vacant.

But East Street has seen the steady opening of a number of independent retailers, particularly the north end of East Street.

With the impending regeneration of Bedminster Green, the East Street Vision strategy says that it is "incredibly important that East Street re-emerges as a community focal point for its existing and future users".

 Simon Dicken, chair of Bedminster BID and manager of Wilko's in East Street, said: "Being both a trader and chairman of the BID, I find the vision exciting and, for me, is more than the sum of its parts; it shows the hopes of the many that we have for a local sustainable future for shopping and leisure south of the river."

George Grace, BID manager, says that so far, the response from the local community has been positive and traders are supportive of the plans.

He adds that it has been a "challenging" time for the high street, particularly in the face of austerity, Brexit and the pandemic, and it has been under significant pressure after losing a number of big retailers. "Losing Boots was a particularly scary one," he says.

George added: "We can either sit back or think, what can we do to reduce this decline? With the extra 3,000 new homes proposed [as part of the Bedminster Green development], there will be a demand there and as long as the shops respond to these new people then I think the future is still positive for East Street."

Amandine Tchou, owner of Vx Bristol in East Street, said: "As a business owner and resident on East Street, I am really excited by the vision. East Street has been sadly left behind for too many years, yet it still have a lot of character and a lot of potential.

"The buildings are lovely and the street pleasant to walk in. There is a proper sense of community here. The street though has a terrible reputation and a lot of people want to avoid it. We need a proper vision and investment to make it attractive and safe for new residents, new business owners, new shoppers. With so many empty units and flats the potential is huge.

Southville councillor Tony Dyer told the South Bristol Voice: "East Street used to be the primary retail and leisure destination for much of south Bristol but then went into decline.

"The Bedminster BID team have worked hard alongside local residents, retailers and other businesses to produce a vision of what East Street could look like.  I am very supportive of the vision itself.

"We cannot simply try to recreate the East Street that I knew when growing up, but what we can do is build upon the history and heritage of a traditional shopping street whilst creating the type of shopping experience that people have now come to expect.

"There is a lot of hard work still to do, and there is always the problem of securing the funding, but myself and fellow Southville councillor Christine Townsend, are committed to doing what we can to establish East Street once again as a major retail and leisure destination for South Bristol."

To view the East Street Vision and to provide feedback on the plans, visit eaststreetvision.com. Click the tab 'Project update April 2021' to watch the short video update and download the report for the masterplan. Feedback can be provided via the website or by emailing hello@eaststreetvision.com.