Kingswood is to be a top priority for a new regional High Streets initiative, according to a report published by the West of England Combined Authority.
Earlier this month the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) announced a £10million pilot ‘Love Our High Streets’ initiative for community-led high street regeneration in each of the 3 local authorities that make up WECA, including South Gloucestershire.
The announcement came in the same week as the Budget in which the Chancellor announced a new Future High Streets Fund to invest £675 million in England to support local areas to develop and fund plans to make their high streets and town centres fit for the future. It will include £55 million for heritage-based regeneration, restoring historic high streets to boost retail and bring properties back into use as homes, offices and cultural venues.
Now WECA have published details of their High Streets Fund, which they hope to match-fund with government, and Kingswood has been named as the South Gloucestershire pilot.
The Kingswood High Street regeneration proposal claims to be “an ambitious programme geared to delivering long-term transformation of the experience of Kingswood High Street. The pilot project will provide funding for some short-term investment in the street scene, partly delivered by the Authority and partly delivered by the community and this will support a pilot project led by the Council and already underway.”
The programme will “invest in the development of a Makerspace Studio, providing access to digital training and equipment for the local community. Investment will also be set aside for the significant community and heritage opportunity offered by the Grade-1 listed Whitfield Tabernacle. To support a sustainable long-term urban centre, the project will also provide the revenue funding required to comprehensively masterplan the town centre, providing new housing and employment opportunities, but also delivering strategies for the future of the heritage, green space and public realm offers.”
Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore has welcomed the news, saying:
“Having met with the West of England Mayor Tim Bowles and taken him on a tour of Kingswood High Street, I’m delighted that Kingswood has now been named as the priority for this regional Love our High Streets initiative and look forward to this being confirmed by the committee at their meeting at the end of this month.
It is particularly exciting to see proposals that look to the future and seek to increase access to digital training for the community, investment to kick-start a scheme to bring the derelict Tabernacle back into use, as well as long-term planning with the community to breathe even more new life into our treasured High Street.
The potential to use this local funding to access the government’s national Future High Streets Fund means this can be a real game-changer for our town centre and builds on the real sense of momentum that we have established in recent months to improve the Kings Chase Shopping Centre and bring derelict sites back into use, such as the Whitfield Tabernacle.
Local people demand investment in their local town centres and High Streets and I will continue to champion them all across the constituency”