NEW LIFE FOR EMPTY SHOPS
BEDMINSTER has been awarded a share of a £1.2 million Government fund to help regenerate its ailing shopping streets.
The £100,000 handout will go towards bringing empty shops back into use in North Street, East Street and West Street, tackling anti-social behaviour and making the area more pedestrian- friendly.
Street art and theatre could breathe new life into the shopping streets, with plans in place to spend some of the cash windfall on a permanent trail of 25 pieces of locally made art, a permanent outdoor theatre space and performances in "pop-up" temporary venues.
A bicycle rickshaw service could also be introduced, along with changes to car parking and making roads "shared spaces", where surfaces are changed and cars and pedestrians given equal priority.
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The scheme is one of 12 so-called Portas Pilots – named after shopping guru Mary Portas – to be included in a national scheme the government hopes will "kick-start a high street renaissance".
The Bedminster Town Team, the organisation behind the successful bid for the cash, will be offered support from local government minister Grant Shapps and Ms Portas, whose independent review into the state of Britain's high streets led to the fund being set up.
Earlier this year a report by retail analyst the Local Data Company claimed that almost one in every five shops in Bedminster was empty and predicted a bleak future for high streets, with shoppers' money increasingly going to out-of-town and online retailers.
The town team aims to turn things around and although the government cash would total £100,000 if split evenly between the winning schemes, more money could flow in from other sources, including up to £300,000 available from a planning deal if the Sainsbury's supermarket planned for Ashton Gate goes ahead.
Bedminster ward councillor Mark Bradshaw said: "This could be the breakthrough we are seeking to make a big difference on the ground."
Mr Bradshaw said those who wanted to see the area revived had to "think differently" to bring people in.
He said: "If we were to try to recreate West Street as it was in the 1930s or 40s, we are not going to be able to do that.
"This is about reinventing our shopping streets." Talks will now take place to see how the money the Bedminster Town Team receives can best be put to work.
City council leader Simon Cook said: "Bristol is well known for its vibrant high streets and thriving markets but it's important that we do all we can to support traders across the city who play a crucial role in our local economy.
"To be one of 12 areas chosen, out of 370 bids from across the country, is a real achievement and recognition of the strong case (the town team) made."
Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo, whose constituency includes Bedminster, said: "I think this is fantastic news. It's really important that we do everything we can to try to invest in our high streets and encourage people to use local shops in their communities."