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High street renewal: introduction and overview

In recent years, changing lifestyles and the growth of online commerce have had a substantial impact on high street businesses. Challenging trading conditions have been made much worse by the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on shops, hospitality and leisure facilities.

As a council, we are working on a series of projects aimed at supporting high streets in our city, towns and local centres. These co-ordinated schemes aim to make sure our high streets continue to be vibrant places which meet the needs of the community and visitors, and provide spaces for businesses and community organisations to thrive. 

In the short term, our main focus is to protect existing businesses and local jobs, and give residents a reason to visit again, as we come slowly out of restrictions imposed by the  pandemic. We also have longer-term plans to help renew our centres to prepare for the future, with support for a wide range of uses and activities. Select a topic below to learn more about individual projects, and follow links for details on the plans and progress of each scheme.

B&NES-wide projects

Reopening the High Street Safely/Welcome Back Fund (2020 to 22)

This project is using EU and UK government grant funding to support our COVID-19 response in our High Streets. Projects include the following:

  • Temporary changes to public space (for example, to support social distancing)
  • Business support
  • Communications and marketing campaigns 
  • Data gathering (such as footfall counts and monitoring sentiment via social media)
  • Support for events and activities to welcome residents and visitors back to our High Streets

Vacant Units Action Project

This two-year project (2021 to 23) is supported by the WECA Recovery Fund and aims to vacant shops and buildings on High Streets to good use. The project is focused on Bath City Centre, with satellite schemes planned in Keynsham and Midsomer Norton. Schemes include the following:

  • Artistic installations and exhibitions, supporting local makers
  • 'Meanwhile' uses of temporarily empty spaces
  • Pop-up and innovative business ventures (such as markets or seasonal themed shopping)
  • Community use projects (such as local charity publicity or COVID-safe messaging)

Bath City Centre Renewal Programme

Public space improvements

A series of projects are underway. We have already made major public space improvements in Saw Close, High Street and Stall Street. In addition, current improvement projects have recently been delivered in Milsom Street, Kingsmead Square and Union Street. We are currently working on designs for York Street and on future phases of works to Milsom Street and Kingsmead Square.

Love our High Street projects

We have developed a bid for financial support from WECA's Love our High Street Fund. Our proposals include the following:

  • For Milsom Quarter and Kingsmead Square: Public space improvements, animation and events projects
  • City-wide: a Street Trading project to improve the look and feel of outdoor market spaces and stalls 

Policy framework for schemes in Bath

We have in place extensive strategies to ensure that any projects within Bath City Centre are appropriate to the city's unique historic environment and World Heritage Site status:

Keynsham High Street Renewal Programme

This programme has two phases, as follows:

Phase 1: public realm and highways scheme

This project is currently in the construction phase. It will deliver major improvements to Keynsham’s core High Street area during 2021 and 22.

Phase 2: High Street Heritage Action Zone

A High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) has been established, with £1.1m grant funding from Historic England, together with funding from Keynsham Town Council and B&NES Council. This four-year scheme (running from 2020 to 24) will deliver improvements to public spaces and shopfronts on the High Street, alongside arts events, community engagement and a cultural programme.

Midsomer Norton High Street Renewal Programme

A High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) has been established, with £2m funding, including funding secured from Historic England, WECA, and with financial support from Midsomer Norton Town Council. This project will deliver the following:

  • A new town square
  • Improvements to the Town Hall
  • Renovated and enhanced historic shopfronts
  • Improvements to public space and street furniture
  • Arts and community engagement

Neighbourhood High Street renewal projects

We are currently at the project scoping stage to see what improvements we can make to neighbourhood High Streets throughout Bath and North East Somerset (meaning that we are looking into what may be possible). We are working on a bid to get more funding to improve and support neighbourhood High Streets. Our early pilot activities are focused on Twerton High Street and Bear Flat.