A £10m boost for local high streets has been approved by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) through its brand-new Love our High Streets initiative.
Today (30 November), the West of England Combined Authority Committee agreed to establish a West of England Love our High Streets fund of up to £10m to support high streets across the region.
Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils will carry out pilot projects in each of their areas – including Bath, Bedminster, Kingswood and Midsomer Norton.
Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, said: “We’re creating exciting opportunities, with some great pilot projects from our three constituent councils to transform key high streets and town centres and give them a renewed vigour. The future of our high streets isn’t just about shops, it’s about our businesses, community activities, services and homes. Through Love our High Streets, we’ll work with our councils and communities to embrace the future of our high streets in the digital age, and explore how we can secure funding, expertise and support to revive our town centres.”
Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “This will help us to keep the life-blood in the city and town centres across Bath and North East Somerset – so it’s great that we’re getting things moving so quickly, and I thank Cllr Paul Myers for bringing the idea forward and driving this project. We need to make visiting our high streets a real lifestyle choice for more people. The West of England Combined Authority is all about improving transport and the local economy so I’m really pleased to see Love our High Street coming forward.”
Cllr Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor of Bristol with responsibility for Finance, Governance and Performance, said: “We are all too aware of the retail crisis impacting our centres and high streets. This is brilliant news for our pilot project in Bedminster to rejuvenate East Street, Bedminster Parade, Cannon Street and part of North Street – giving them a boost. We will work with our local communities to make sure that they are involved in helping to make the project a success.”
Cllr Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, said: “I’m very excited about Love our High Streets as it responds to what our communities have been telling us. This is a really significant moment for Kingswood and it’s a great opportunity for us to engage with people and businesses to move things forward. The Combined Authority is taking quick and decisive action – backed up by significant funding – to make progress on a number of long-standing issues that local residents simply want us to get on with sorting.”
Dr John Bradford, Chief Executive of High Tech Bristol and Bath, said: “Across the West of England we have 15 DigiLocal clubs, all hosted by local communities. The Makerspace Studio proposed as part of Love our High Streets is a fantastic opportunity to extend the possibilities for young people in our communities to engage with digital technologies in a structured and safe environment.”
The pilot projects
- Bath & North East Somerset: Pilot High Streets Programme
A single pilot covering three locations. Each will explore new ways of making high streets fit for the future, including increasing footfall, attracting new uses and improving local facilities. The areas are:
- Midsomer Norton town centre – reinventing the local market town
- Bath city centre – reinforcing the identify and appeal of the north of the city centre
- Local High Street Vitality Initiative – including a “healthcheck” and a community led-investment pilot for Twerton High Street.
- Bristol: Bedminster regeneration
This will support the development of currently underused or vacant spaces in East Street, Bedminster Parade, Cannon Street and part of North Street, with a focus on bringing new types of use into the area, strengthening and diversifying the current high street offer. Attracting businesses within the creative and digital sectors would be a priority.
- South Gloucestershire: Kingswood High Street regeneration
This will look at how Kingswood High Street can be transformed for the long term, as well as providing some short-term investment. This will also include creating a makerspace studio which will offer digital training and equipment for the local community, and works on the Grade I listed Whitfield Tabernacle.
WECA will work closely with the authorities to agree detailed plans and outcomes. The pilot projects are expected to lead to a longer-term Love our High Streets project.
The Combined Authority will also explore external funding, and support the councils to bid for a share of the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, as announced in the Budget.