Funding to make high streets ‘more attractive’

Clare Morris fears for the survival of independent businesses unless more is done to support them.

Clare Morris fears for the survival of independent businesses unless more is done to support them. - Credit: Archant

INDEPENDENT shops and groups have received £100,000 in grants designed to make North Somerset’s high streets more ‘attractive and interesting’.

College student Georgia Stuart and Louise Graham and Claire Palmer outside So Retro which opened in

College student Georgia Stuart and Louise Graham and Claire Palmer outside So Retro which opened in 2012. - Credit: Archant

A total of 30 businesses and community projects have won funding designed to reinvigorate town centres.

Danny Evans from Feniton Fudge at last year's Weston Food Festival in the Winter Gardens. The food f

Danny Evans from Feniton Fudge at last year's Weston Food Festival in the Winter Gardens. The food festival was one of the winners of the money. - Credit: Archant

Despite the money being handed out in Weston, Yatton, Banwell and Worle amongst other places, concerns over the long-term viability of small local businesses have again be raised.

Independent firms were the main beneficiaries of the High Street Innovation Fund (HIF), which came off the back of Mary Portas’ high-profile review of the British shopping industry in 2011.

All successful bidders had to match the grant they received with their own funding, before being allocated the cash.


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The money has gone on a wide range of enhancements varying from installing new shop canopies to launching Weston cinema clubs.

The latter has been introduced at Loves Café in West Street after it raised match funding to go alongside the HIF grant.

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Loves owner Anna Southwell said: “We were awarded £1,400 but we weren’t able to claim it all because of the difficulties of match-funding.

“It was used to set-up my cinema club as it paid for a projector and screen.”

A free children’s film session is held on Wednesday afternoons in conjunction with Weston-Super-Mum and an equivalent for adults on a Thursday night.

Ms Southwell said the grant allowed her to push forward with an idea she had wanted to do for years.

She added: “It is really great that I was awarded the money.

“It was always my aim to do a cinema club from when I opened four-and-a-half years ago but the HIF made me realise that dream more quickly.”

Mrs Portas’ review called for a diverse range of businesses in high streets to tempt visitors back and the council was handed a six-figure sum to pass onto new businesses, existing companies and groups which presented a good plan.

Clare Morris, who runs Coco Deli at Big Lamp Corner in Weston, said small businesses needed more support.

She bought a new A-board and banners after matching the HIF grant and said: “I think it is imperative independent businesses remain part of high streets and it’s really sad to see some struggling.

“I will be lucky to survive another couple of years. This scheme is fantastic but the council needs to do more.”

Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, deputy leader of North Somerset Council, said high streets should not only be a place for big national chains.

He said: “I believe these entrepreneurial small businesses hold the key to keeping our town centres alive, rather than the same old chain stores you find throughout the country.

“Many of these projects have helped to make the high street look a more attractive and interesting place to be and have breathed new life into certain areas of our towns. In total, this £100,000 grant allocation has enabled projects to start up, expand, diversify and has supported events and initiatives that will offer vital support to neighbouring businesses.

“The funds have helped bring many empty shops back into use which not only helps individual business but crucially it brings extra vitality to certain areas of the high street where footfall has declined.”

Groups and businesses awarded funding, include:

In Weston:

* Loves Cafe.

* Coco’s Deli.

* Weston super Food Festival.

* The Independent Quarters.

* Big Lamp Corner improvements.

* The Market Place.

* Weston-super-Mare Market canopies.

* Eden Fitness Centre for Women.

* Fresh n Tasty Bites.

* So Retro.

In other areas:

* Home Instead Senior Care, Worle.

* Time Out Coffee Shop, Banwell.

* Scoop and Spice, Yatton.

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