The deprived suburb in north Bristol to benefit from major ‘long overdue’ regeneration
‘It’s about time it had that investment coming in to regenerate and make it look better’
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It’s not midday yet, but the Pegasus pub already appears to be doing good business. A group of people in black suits having come from a funeral walk out of the local while others in the large group sit outside the Express Cafe drinking coffee.
The sun is shining brightly down on Southmead, and its central shopping area, called Arnside, is busy. Next to the pub, refreshingly, all the store units on the ground level of the rather tired-looking precinct are full, and most seem to be busy with shoppers.
It’s a change from similar-aged shopping areas on the other side of the city, such as the Broadwalk Shopping Centre in Knowle where there are more boarded up shops than open ones.
Yes, things are looking up in Southmead, despite it recently being classed in the top 40 neighbourhoods for deprivation in Bristol. We stand at the bottom of Arnside Road with local councillor Kye Dudd. The smartly-dressed councillor, only elected in Februrary, says that regeneration work is already taking place.
He shows us the new granite stone seating, ‘wild planting’ beds, the dedicated cycle lane and tells us about the underground drainage to stop flooding. The councillor also points out the ‘May The Mead Be With You’ marked on one area of the seating - a nod to the late David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.
Although there are some weeds dotted around on the pavement, the area is certainly an improvement from last year.
“Quite frankly, this is a post-war estate, [and] it’s probably the last time it had major investment so it’s about time it had that investment coming in to regenerate and make it look better, “ Councillor Dudd says.
”It’s a shame you don’t have a before and after to see what it was like before and compare it to what is now - it is a major improvement and makes the area look better, makes it more attractive for people to come to shop here.”
The biggest part of the regeneration work focuses on Glencoyne Square; a green area behind the shops which is bordered by two churches and Southmead and Henbury Family Practice.
Work will start to build a housing development with 187 homes - of which two thirds will be ‘affordable’ - next year if a revised planning application is approved. The building will also feature a health and wellbeing hub, a relocated Southmead Library and a learning and advice centre.
But there have been issues. The project gave space for the area’s Aldi supermarket to expand with the library relocating and the youth club closing - but the company went back on this, leaving a slight headache for the planners.
It was also hoped that the new development would include a new health centre - but, again, this will not be happening after a failure to come to an agreement with NHS Partners over funding.
The square has also not been without its crime problems and there is evidence of this as we discover burnt out motorbike on the grass on the day we are there.
However, the planned development is a big step forward for the area and has been welcomed locally. After the council agreed to a £7.6m spend on developing the ground floor for the building, Southmead resident Deana Perry said: “As a lifelong resident, I can honestly say that Arnside is the heart of Southmead, and for this development to be built is a dream that I hold very close to my heart.”
And going back to Councillor Dudd standing on Arnside Road, he‘s also feeling optimistic. “The council is sending a signal to say it backs the community and their ideas with our investment and also had helped to secure investment from the Government and Homes England,” he says.
“We are commited to the area and we want to see it improve - and it’s long overdue.”
We wait to see how the work evolves and if it can be replicated elsewhere across the city....