How Nailsea town centre was changed forever 50 years ago
- Credit: Archant
Nailsea town centre has a ‘bright future’ ahead, according to business experts.
While many shops are closing and town centres are reporting a lack of footfall, Nailsea seems to be bucking the trend.
This photo from our archive shows work starting at the shopping centre 50 years ago – in November 1968.
The development was expected to take two years to complete and would comprise 37 shops, four supermarkets or multiple stores, a showroom and petrol filling station, two small office blocks, 32 flats and maisonettes, a pub, car parks, a library, a health centre and a post office.
The new shopping centre, which was built by Somerset County Council, left many business owners fearing for their livelihoods due to the huge competition.
Nailsea town councillor Liz Frappell, whose father owned C H Marsh butchers and fish shop on the High Street said: “I can remember it all happening.
“It was a very bad time for the other traders because the whole town at that point was under compulsory purchase.
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“My father was coming up towards retirement and he couldn’t sell the business to anybody because the future was so uncertain.
“The whole High Street, almost as far as John Brown Hardware, was due to be redeveloped as part of the scheme.
“My father had to take Somerset County Council to court so they would buy it off him so he could retire.”
Cllr Frappell later started renting her dad’s old shop from the new owner to run a flower shop and greengrocers.
She said: “The High Street grew with the precinct and trade has been good.
“It didn’t really make a huge amount of difference – we just had to keep on trading very hard which is a good thing.
“The new supermarkets kept people in the town to use the small shops.
“Trade has become tough again, but it’s happening everywhere and I don’t think we’ve been hit as hard as in other places.”
Ellandi, in partnership with Development Securities, bought Crown Glass Shopping Centre in 2009 and the company has worked hard to attract new stores and update the facilities.
Ellandi’s property director Mark Robinson said: “We’ve refurbished about 30,000 sq.ft of offices, mainly above the Sion and Somerset Square and we’ve now got a thriving community of local businesses in the town.
“We have created 18 flats, which all sold very successfully, and we introduced national retailers to the town including WHSmith, Costa Coffee and M&Co.
“We are currently extending units in Colliers Walk to secure a number of national multiples – so we are creating new and bigger units at a time when you hear nothing but bad news for town centres.
“We have a lot of people coming to Nailsea and they want to shop here.
“Nailsea only has one or two vacant shops in the whole of the town centre, whereas many town centres have one in 10 or one in eight shops closed.
“We’ve got good housing growth planned and it’s an affluent area.
“It’s a pretty bright future for Nailsea.”
In the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) which sets out where development should be built over the next 20 years – Nailsea has been earmarked for 2,575 homes along with five schools, shops and community facilities.
A further 725 homes could also be built after 2036.
With Nailsea’s population set to swell by 50 per cent, businesses are hoping it will lead to an increase in footfall in the town.
Cllr Frappell added: “I think it’s absolutely vital to keep the town centre thriving.
“We want to attract young families into the area so we need to keep the town centre up to date.
“I think the worst thing that could happen if they build all these new houses is if they put a new shopping area in each one.
“In Bristol all the new developments have little rows of shops in them and there are just too many.
“They need to centre them all in one area and keep that thriving rather than build shops everywhere.
“I think the whole community in Nailsea has improved so much over the years.
“Before they started building lots of houses it was a close community, then lots of new people came in who didn’t know the area, and I think now that’s stopped and people are getting involved again, which is great.”