Kingswood locals are clearly passionate about their High Street and their feedback and ideas, received from the public, businesses and other stakeholders will help to formulate a Masterplan that will shape the future of the heart of the neighbourhood for years to come.
The South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet received a report last week that summarised the key themes and views, which were garnered through a three-month consultation exercise that took place earlier this year. In addition to an online survey, outreach to local groups and organisations and thanks to more than 1,200 face-to-face conversations between residents and council staff who occupied a shopfront on the high street there is an enthusiasm to match our commitment to ensuring that Kingswood thrives.
Following the Council’s purchase of the Kings Chase Shopping Centre earlier this year, respondents were keen to see further investment in the facilities, including an exploration of whether new leisure centre facilities could be brought into the heart of the town centre space. A new leisure centre would replace the ageing centre at Soundwell.
Other priorities to enhance the shopping centre included were identified as more choices of food and drink venues, the promotion of local art and culture and the inclusion of health facilities.
The public also said the council should prioritise connecting the range of green and open spaces across the Kingswood area, so that more people were aware of the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in their community. People signalled a desire to see a map of green spaces and a well-promoted programme of events, such as markets, performances, parades, displayed in the shopping centre, as well as more signage so that those on foot could easily take advantage of the parks and walking routes available.
Kingswood already has a Conservation Area, and more than two thirds of respondents to the consultation supported the principle of extending this to protect locally-listed buildings on Regent Street, which is consistent with our ambition to protect and promote Kingswood’s heritage.
The centrepiece of the current work to preserve local history is the renovation and redevelopment of the Grade-I listed Whitfield Tabernacle, which is well underway with the roof re-introduced in the past few months. The adjacent Grade-II listed Masters Church is nearing completed restoration.
Locals also recognised that to fully thrive and deliver for residents and business alike, the centre of the area will also need to diversify, with mixed commercial opportunities as well as space for modern urban living, allowing people to live close to where they work locally, as well as to public transport links.
South Gloucestershire Council Leader, Councillor Toby Savage, said: “I am delighted that so many local people, business owners and other groups have played such a creative and constructive part in this consultation. We look forward to harnessing the ideas and the enthusiasm expressed into a Masterplan for the area as we plan together for the future.
“Of course, there is much more work to do, and there will be more conversations to be had in the future as we look in more detail at how we balance the need to accommodate people travelling to Kingswood to visit, use shops and services, whether by bus, car, bicycle or on foot.
“Both the Council and First Bus are committed to improving the public transport offer for the town centre and maximising accessibility to the shopping centre and we believe that some element of pedestrianisation on Regent Street will help to ensure that once people arrive, they can enjoy all that Kingswood has and will come to offer.
“Kingswood already has some wonderful parks and open spaces and there is real enthusiasm to make better use and better connect these and the rich local heritage, which is built into the local streets and landscape so that there can always be something going on in Kingswood.”
In terms of next steps, the Council will now take the public feedback and work on a final Masterplan for Kingswood, which will be represented to Cabinet next year. A feasibility study and surveys to test the viability of relocating the Kingswood Leisure Centre to the rear of the Kings Chase Shopping Centre will also take place.
A Kingswood Town Centre Steering Group will be established and, if a decision is taken to progress to the establishment of a Kingswood Town Council, this new body will be invited to take part and play a part in developing plans for the future of the area.
The final phase of the Whitfield Tabernacle restoration project subject will progress in the coming year.