I visit the ‘ghost town’ shopping centre in Bristol on the day another store announces closure
I count 15 empty shop units inside the precinct
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“Bedminster isn’t what it used to be” - a line I was told on a few occasions as I spoke with shoppers along East Street.
I’m here to get their reaction to the news that the Iceland store, based in St Catherine’s Place, will be closing on Saturday (February 25). Most of those I speak to are disappointed but few are surprised. I count 15 empty lots inside the precinct tucked away off of East Street which pretty much does what it says on the tin considering the baron, worn-down frontage.
“It’s a ghost town around here,” grumble three men waiting for their bus clutching a few bags of shopping each. They’re made to wait for the bus at a temporary stop a few paces down from the usual shelter due to the construction of student housing.
“They’re making lots of houses like these for students but they won’t spend any money here. It’s slowly dying on East Street and the council and MPs aren’t doing anything about it. Cutting bus services every other day isn’t helping either, how are we supposed to support the few shops still standing if we can’t get to them.” Said 54-year-old, Mike who was making his way home into Hartcliffe.
There are plans in place to redevelop St Catherine’s Place put forward by developer, Firmstone which was given the green light to build three apartment blocks in 2021. Along with the 180 homes set to be built, the centre’s retail section would be revamped - but shoppers are unsure if they’ll continue visiting if these plans were to come to fruition.
Couple John and Margaret complete a weekly shop at Iceland and are weary of the shopping centre being occupied by more expensive retailers if it was to undergo a makeover.
“It is an inconvenience [for the store to be closing] but it doesn’t surprise us. You’ve only got Farm Foods left around here now for value and you have to wonder ‘how long will that be here for?’ We actually walked here today and counted the empty stores on the way, it is getting grim for businesses.
“I’m always doubtful when plans are announced to improve the area. Whether the centre will get a revamp remains to be seen but those in charge of it need to remember those who have lived around here their whole lives and not just cater to those attending university for a few years.”
Bristol World reached out to Farm Foods who insist they have no plans of closing their store in St Catherine’s Place. Time will tell if Firmstone is able to breath more life into this rundown centre. There is hope the trade will improve with Bedminster BID among those to support the plan.