Lively debate on future of Glos Rd trade
A lively meeting of The Bishopston Society was held at Gloucester Cricket Club on 17 April to consider The Future Economy of Bishopston.
A panel of traders' associations, the Bishopston Society and a councillor presented their ideas for a discussion about what is going well on the Gloucester Road - the longest independent shopping street in the UK - and what could be better.
Chris Wallace from the Bishopston Society and the Gloucester Road Story has been collecting data about the different businesses that come and go over the years. He reported that the number of vacancies on the road is down and the area feels lively and is able to provide a service to residents and shopkeepers. However, there is concern about the closure of Maplins as the loss of their business rates will be significant.
Anne-Louise Perez from the Gloucester Road Business Improvement District (GR BID) praised the strength in independent shops and talked about the need for businesses to accept and embrace e-commerce alongside their shops.
Peter Browne from Gloucester Road Enterprise & Trade (GRE&T) talked about how the majority of businesses, particularly in the north end of the road, offered food and drink, hairdressing or nails, white goods and financial and legal advice. He raised the issue of how an increase in business rates can quickly have an adverse effect on an area.
Representing traders on the panel and the Gloucester Road Central area was Room 212 owner Sarah Thorpe who talked about the vast increase in footfall that occurs when an event is held in the area, such as Mayfest and the Christmas tree party. Speaking as a trader, she described the sense of camaraderie and joy she experiences when opening up her shop alongside other traders each morning.
“I love the Gloucester Road,” was the rousing endorsement given by councillor Eleanor Combley, who went on to talk about how the shops enabled all local needs to be met and that people shop in the area because they like it. Eleanor also raised the issues of traffic and noise.
Questions from the floor raised the problem of pollution. Making cycling safer nearer the city centre and initiatives to support active travel to and from schools were some of the measures discussed. Better traffic management, especially for unloading outside shops, was identified as necessary, plus the possibility of making the crossing by Sainsbury’s light controlled to keep traffic moving.
A final suggestion was that traders and residents could be more proactive about the type of businesses needed in the area, offering potential shopkeepers encouragement to provide that service.