Government minister visits neglected Bristol high street to mark £14.5m investment
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The government’s Levelling Up minister has visited a neglected high street in south Bristol to mark it receiving £14.5m in investment.
Jacob Young was given a tour of Filwood Broadway in Knowle West by Bristol City Council cabinet member for housing delivery and homes, Tom Renhard, and council officers.
He was shown around the 85-year-old Filwood Community Centre, which is the centrepiece of the regeneration plans, and the 1930s high street, which included a cinema and swimming pool in its prime but both sites are now earmarked for new housing.
His visit came the same time as housing association LiveWest withdrew its plans to build 29 homes on the swimming pool site, with Renhard telling BristolWorld the council is now looking at alternative plans for the site.
Speaking to BristolWorld on the Levelling Up funding for Filwood Broadway, Young said: “I think the plans that the council have for this high street are fantastic.
“Obviously this is a community in need of levelling up and that’s why we’ve given this £14.5m cash injection into this community to help transform it.
“I really hope that the people of Filwood embrace this project for what it is and use these spaces when it’s completed.”
As well as plans for new housing on the former cinema and swimming pool sites, the expansion of the community centre is set to include theatre space, an art gallery, music studio and additional community space. Filwood Library could also be relocated from its existing 1960s building to be a part of the centre.
The public realm is also set to be redesigned, with work already started on creating a new children’s play area.
And there are also plans to revitalise and renovate the row of shops on both sides of the streets.
But will these physical improvements address social issues that Filwood has historically grappled with, including crime and anti-social behaviour?
“I think the key thing is helping to improve pride of place,” added Young.
“Across Avon & Somerset Police we’ve had 1,500 new officers since 2019 and I think that’s going to help tackle anti-social behaviour as well.
“But I think building that pride in community, which is what we’re hoping to do through this Levelling Up funding, is going to help tackle some of those issues.”
The cinema opened in 1938 and would later become a bingo hall, but was out of use since the 1990s. Despite that, there was a campaign to save the building, with some disappointed to see it demolished earlier in the year.
“Community institutions like cinemas and other things are obviously vital for local communities,” added Young.
“I think in this case, the cinema from what I’ve heard from the council was derelict for quite some time and we saw a different use for that land.
“But cultural institutions like cinemas and other things deserve to be protected in their communities."
Filwood has been promised regeneration in the past, but has seen little investment over the years. So why is this time different?
The minister added: “We’ve given the cash to Bristol City Council, and people can have confidence because they can see the work undergoing already: the new play area’s being developed, the cinema’s been demolished to make way for new housing.
“I think people can feel certain that Filwood will be levelled up through this £14.5m investment.”