One of the great attractions of the Gloucester Road, to both locals and those from outside the area, is its diversity. We are proud of the variety of shops, the cafes, and the buzz even in the evening. However this does not mean there are no causes for concern.
- Is there an appropriate balance between the different kinds of shops and between shops and cafes?
- Are shops which become empty, even for a short period, not only an eyesore but also a wasted resource?
- Are measures needed to restrict the number of licensed premises which may cause disturbance late in the evening?
Questions like these are not new. They are the subject of discussion by local shopkeepers, community groups and councillors. Some planning restrictions have been in place for several years and, just a few months ago, the City Council agreed to a formal consultation on making part of the Gloucester Road a Cumulative Impact Area. (A CIA is an area where, because of the concentration of licensed premises, there is more control by City Council and police.)
But if we really want to safeguard the diversity of the Gloucester Road, shouldn’t we be trying to maintain or even improve the current rich mix of premises?
We might start for example by asking:
- Is there any way business rates could be varied to encourage diversity?
- Could the lines of communication between local shopkeepers and the city council be improved?
- Is it possible to identify local community or arts groups who could make use of empty premises?
- If so, how could they be encouraged ?
These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking. And of course there are many more! Let us know what you think; bishopston.
A few years ago the Gloucester Road was labeled “the last great British High Street" by Mark Rowe in the Independent (August 2004). And it’s true that its independent shops and cafes serve our local community in a way that is rare now in a country dominated by supermarkets and shopping malls.
Being local means
- that many of us can do all our shopping without using a car
- that the shops are owned by local people and profits go to them rather than to chains
- that produce and goods have not been transported long distances
- that key services are easily accessible
Possibly too that shopping is a more enjoyable and safer experience because of the familiar faces.
The Green Party in Bristol supports and encourages this kind of localness. “Think global, act local” is one of the key points in the Party’s plan for the city and wherever Green councillors have been elected they have promoted local shops and post offices and local food; and shown they have an understanding of the global forces which can make life so difficult for local traders. We need now to use this knowledge and experience to start thinking about some of the threats to the Gloucester Road and how these might be responded to.