'The bustling village we had is gone'

June 25 2019

A LOCAL business owner has expressed his concerns over the level of trade that he is witnessing in Westbury-on-Trym village.

by Keri Beckingham

Julien Carey, owner of Garden Trappings and WOTBA committee member, told Henleaze and Westbury Voice that he has noticed a definite drop in foot-fall, which he blames on the poor mixture of shops that are available in the village and parking issues.
Speaking about his concerns, Julian said: “Since Lloyds Pharmacy in Carlton Court closed two and a half years ago, I’ve noticed that my passing trade has really suffered. Now in the village there is no flagship as such, no big draw for people and the bustling village we once had is gone.
“In my opinion, the retail mix is all wrong. Including Stoke Lane, we have seven charity shops in the village, which is quite a lot. I think that Henleaze and Gloucester Road have a far better mix of shops, and they don’t have any car parks, whereas we have two and just don’t seem to be able to make a go of it.  
“When the car park on Westbury Hill was just a car park for the village it worked brilliantly, but when the doctors was built it all changed and there just aren’t enough spaces for everyone. In addition, it’s not properly monitored by Bristol City Council, and I think that a lot of other people are using it as an unofficial park and ride and catching buses into town as they are prepared to risk a fine rather than drive into the city centre and pay extortionate rates to park. It needs a barrier and to be properly managed.”
Mr Carey, who is 74, has run Garden Trappings in the village for over 30 years. He moved to the area with his parents in 1974, partly because of the range of shops that were available in the village at that time. He added: “My parents chose Westbury-on-Trym because there was no need to go into Bristol. When my parents were alive I can count on one hand the number of times they actually went into town – everything you needed was here, but not anymore.
“These days I carry on running my business as a way to keep me out of the house, as I like doing things and talking to people, but if I was in my 30s and 40s I could not make this business pay, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks like this. Sometimes I can sit here and I don’t see a soul.
"If I went to Henleaze or Gloucester Road I know it would be buzzing, but after we lost the chemist, butchers and the job centre, and when the post office stopped paying pensions and credits over counter, the footfall has just gone.
“At certain times of the year, like the Christmas fair when Canford Lane is closed, weather permitting you cannot move for people.
"If there is somewhere here that people want, they will come in, however I feel it has got to the point where it is out of everyone’s hands, and Westbury is now beyond tipping point.
“I really don’t know what the future holds. I think high street will be totally gone in years to come, and I think it will go back to being purely residential. I’m not being pessimistic but I can’t see way out of it.”
Following their AGM on Tuesday 18 June, WOTBA has a whole new committee and they will need a bit of time to get settled before launching any new plans.
Mr Carey said: “We’ve tried so many different things over the years, and at the moment I feel that Brexit isn’t helping things as the confidence has gone out of the buying public. However, I’m sure that if we could get the car park on Westbury Hill sorted that would make things better.”
Henleaze and Westbury Voice has also learned that Lanes Carpets in Carlton Court has also recently closed, and the former McColl’s in the high street is set to re-open as a micro-pub. In addition, Mumtaz Mehal has closed and is going to re-open under new owners as The Indian Kitchen.