'Stop turning shops into housing'
BEDMINSTER'S shopping streets are being damaged by council decisions which allow shops and pubs to be converted into flats, according to a North Street trader.
Dave Williams, who owns a plumbing and heating business, fears North Street and West Street won't survive as shopping centres if shops continue to be turned into homes.
The 47-year-old says several retail units have been converted into homes in the past few years, breaking up well-established terraces of shops on once-thriving shopping thoroughfares.
He said the latest example was in West Street, where two disused retail units were converted into housing after permission was granted for a change of use by the city council.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Mr Williams, who has been a trader in North Street since 2004, believes the council caved in to a developer by allowing the conversion to go ahead.
Residents in West Street were in favour of the shops being turned into housing because they had lain empty for several years and become an eyesore. But Mr Williams, who runs iPlumb, believes not enough was done to find tenants for the shops.
He said: "It's an example of how developers have run rings around the planning department.
"We've been concerned for a number of years about planning departments allowing shops to be turned into flats or little houses.
"The more shops we lose in North Street and West Street, the less they become like shopping streets. It's a downward spiral because you then lose people coming to the shops."
He added: "From a developer's point of view, all you need to do is wait for it to turn into an eyesore, then you will get what you want.
"That part of West Street is no longer classed as a shopping zone.
"But that is because the planning department has allowed that part of the street to change.
"They've allowed shops and pubs to be turned into blocks of flats.
"Because we are in a conservation zone, we aren't allowed to put up illuminated signs.
"On one hand you have this lovely idea of a conservation zone and everything looking pretty but on the other hand you are allowing the shopping streets to be broken up by flats. In 2004, when I moved into my shop, you could walk the length of North Street and it was a full retail high street.
"But gradually shops have been allowed to go, one by one.
"Now we've got our bit near Canon Street, the posh bit in Southville and nothing in the middle."
Ben Barker, secretary of the Greater Bedminster Community Partnership, said the development in West Street was "pretty regrettable" but understood why residents wanted housing rather than derelict shops.
He said residents' group Way Out West (WOW) was trying to improve West Street. Stef Brammar, spokeswoman for the group, said WOW was fighting the loss of the shops there.
James Easey, spokesman for the city council, said West Street had lost its designation as a shopping frontage as part of the authority's new core strategy.
But he added: "Officers will always look at applications on a case-by-case basis and if there's a strong case for retail, we will take that into account."