Bristol has secured a £4.725 million funding boost to help the city centre and nine high streets recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city centre, plus high streets at Stockwood, Church Road, Shirehampton, Filwood Broadway, Filton Avenue, Stapleton Road, Brislington Hill, East Street and Two Mile Hill, will be the focus of the recovery package to enhance business and employment opportunities across Bristol.
The city council’s Cabinet last week approved an additional £2.725 million, via the Love our High Streets Fund that was granted by the West of England Combined Authority’s joint committee late last month, to join the £2 million previously awarded from the COVID Capital Recovery Fund in April of this year.
The cash will help develop a support programme for existing and new high street businesses while also funding improvements to the streets in a bid to boost footfall through them. Financial support to new or expanding businesses and organisations to reduce the number of vacant premises on the streets will also be offered.
A £1.3 million vacant commercial property grant scheme, targeting 130 such buildings to bring back into permanent or temporary use, is due to be launched later this year, offering businesses and organisations grants of up to £10,000 to increase the diverse offering in each area.
Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet member for Finance, Governance and Performance, said: “Supporting our high streets and city centre is essential if we are to see them recover and bounce back from the challenges of COVID-19. This investment will help support some of the recovery, but we know that we have a lot more to do.
“High streets are an important as part of what makes the city what it is and they are often the heart of the community. On top of national closures and competition from online retailers, COVID restrictions have had a huge impact on our high street businesses.
“Filling vacant premises, diversifying what’s on offer and greening spaces will all help drive footfall and encourage citizens to shop locally. This will lead to stronger, resilient independent businesses that are valued and supported by their local communities.”
Dan Norris, West of England Mayor, said: “Supporting our high streets is a key priority for me and the Combined Authority which I lead. Bristol is a great city to shop, eat out in and visit. Making sure we keep that brilliant mix of quirky, independent shops is so important. I know the pandemic has been tough so it is great to invest in our high streets to help them survive and thrive.”
The recovery programme will link up with other initiatives being run across the city to maximise funding and support including transport, housing, Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106 (S106).