‘Waste of money’ - Kingswood residents react to £5.5million facelift of shopping mall

It’s part of a £25m ‘masterplan’ to regenerate the town centre

News that Kingswood’s Kings Chase shopping centre is getting a £5.5m facelift has been greeted with a mixed reaction by locals.

South Gloucestershire Council bought the retail complex for £10m in 2021 to kickstart a major regeneration of the town centre. They plan big changes to the mall, including removing what has been described as an ‘ugly’ glass roof.

The upgrades are part of a £25m masterplan which includes a new leisure centre, cinema and pedestrianising part of Regent Street. Although the shopping centre is 100% occupied at the moment, there have been a number of shop closures on the nearby high street.

Over the past few months, high profile closures have included Shaws the drapers and jewellers J A Zahringer, which closed after 132 years on Regent Street.

The council’s short term plan is redecoration of the shopping centre, removal and replacement of the planters and street furniture, improved signage and creating new market stall-style kiosks for traders.

The longer term plan includes removing the internal current glass canopy roof.

Shopper Barbara has lived in Kingswood for 55 years and says she can remember when the high street was thriving. These days, she visits Kings Chase only when she needs to.

She said: “I think this facelift is a bit of a waste of money to be honest, especially at the moment when a lot of people are struggling. They could use the money in other ways. We used to have a lovely cinema here and we had a department store called Jones’s.”

Bill told Bristol World that the plan to open a leisure centre with a swimming pool at the shoppiong centre was ‘nonsense’.

He said: “We already have the swimming baths at Soundwell, which are well used and it has lots of parking. Why don’t they just redevelop that rather than build a new leisure centre?”

When asked about the £5.5m scheme, local resident Peter simply said: “What a load of crap. Other parts of the high street should be pulled down rather than spending money on the shopping centre, which is quite new in comparison. There are too many empty units, Kingswood is looking tired.”

Kings Chase shopping centre is set for a £5.5m faceliftKings Chase shopping centre is set for a £5.5m facelift
Kings Chase shopping centre is set for a £5.5m facelift

As for the ‘ugly’ glass roof in the shopping centre, shopper Tina disagreed. She said: “I don’t think it’s ugly at all. It lets lots of light in so the replacement should be a glass roof or it will look a bit gloomy.

“But I’m sure there’s lots of things they could do with £5.5m - why don’t they sort out the potholes for a start. Even over the last couple of months, the repairs to potholes in Kingswood are awful, they last a couple of weeks before they’re bad again.

“And let’s not forget, there’s a lot more to Kingswood than Kings Chase shopping centre.”

Brian Fudge said: “I can’t see much wrong with the roof that’s here. I think it’s more about the maintenance of the roof rather than the roof itself. I’ve seen much better days in Kingswood. It feels a bit of a ‘has been’ now but then I’m old and I’m sure younger people like my kids will have a different view of it.”

Local resident John and his daughter use Kings Chase shopping centre on a regular basisLocal resident John and his daughter use Kings Chase shopping centre on a regular basis
Local resident John and his daughter use Kings Chase shopping centre on a regular basis

John was shopping with his baby daughter. He said: “I live down the road and I didn’t even know they were planning to redevelop it. I use the shopping centre a lot so if the money spruces it up and brings some life to the place, that’s a good idea.

“We have everything we need up here and I enjoy living around here, it seems to be doing quite well, it’s always busy. Any money injected into a community is money well spent. But I’m not sure about the idea to open a cinema. Who can afford to go to the cinema these days?”

South Gloucestershire Council leader Toby Savage announced the planned improvements at a meeting earlier this month. He said it would give people ‘extra reason’ to visit the town centre and the high street. He added: “Over the next two years, £5.5million is allocated to specific schemes to enhance the centre and continue to deliver a 100 per cent occupied centre, which is what we now have.

“That is testament to the proactive work we have put in as a council to work with business and the community to ensure that we have the businesses and organisations within the shopping centre that people want to see.”

Last year the council scrapped charges at the car park, which it also purchased as part of the deal.