The six councillors representing Kingswood town centre have urged Metro Mayor Tim Bowles and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to involve them and local community groups in a new pilot to regenerate their high street. They are unhappy that an outline business case has been submitted without the involvement of the key community organisations with which they are heavily involved.
WECA agreed this morning to allocate a total of up to £10M to establish a ‘Love our High Streets’ fund and to proceed with pilot projects in each of the three constituent authorities. Kingswood will be South Gloucestershire’s pilot area.
Addressing WECA this morning, Woodstock councillor and Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney said:
“We welcome the award of £10M for high street renewal in the West of England and more specifically the nomination of Kingswood as South Gloucestershire’s pilot.
However, we do register our concern about the ‘top down’ approach adopted so far. We expect WECA and South Gloucestershire Council to be much more collaborative taking this forward.
We find it strange to read that the pilot will be ‘partly delivered by the community’ when the community has not been involved to date.
We have high aspirations for Kingswood town centre and work with community partners to make improvements where we can. But with public money so tight, we have been unable to achieve all that we would like.”
Councillor Rooney highlighted a number of aspirations for the town centre including:
• A resolution to the long-running saga of the Whitfield Tabernacle which local councillors have been working on for many years.
• Addressing the blight of properties at key high street locations that are in a state of unsightly disrepair.
• The redevelopment of the main shopping centre.
• Affordable homes that are well designed and good quality.
• Consideration of a Business Hub to help business start-ups.
• Enhanced public transport provision from neighbouring communities.
Councillor Rooney concluded:
“We and our community partners have the local commitment, local knowledge, local experience and local track record to help drive this ‘Love our High Streets’ pilot to success. We therefore expect to be fully involved both in its development and its delivery.”
Local business owner Chris Farrell comments:
“As a local business owner and past chair of Kingswood Business Association I have seen how hard our local councillors have worked to bring new life into this area and additional funding would bring huge benefits to our Community.”
30 November 2018