High streets

High streets

High streets and local centres are a crucial part of any city or community. As well as shops, they encompass a range of services, employment, leisure opportunities and transport facilities, and as such perform a vital social function.

Some key facts

Bristol has 47 clearly identifiable high streets and local centres, including the city centre (Bristol Shopping Quarter: Cabot Circus, Broadmead and The Galleries), 10 town, 9 district and 27 local centres.

City centre and high streets recovery

A £4.725 million recovery package is being launched to help Bristol’s high streets and the city centre to recover from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cash boost will help to spearhead the regeneration and recovery of the city centre and 47 high streets throughout Bristol. 

Find out more about the funding package.

Welcome Back Fund

The Welcome Back Fund is open to applications until 5pm on Monday 13 December 2021.

You can apply for up to £2,400 to support activity and events that will safely animate and welcome people back to Bristol’s City Centre and 46 high streets, boosting footfall and supporting local businesses.

Funds can cover delivery costs of all, or part of, any activities or events, from markets or parades to pop up exhibitions or the marketing and promotion of an event or high street.

Business support and initiatives

A range of information relevant to high street and local centre businesses and independent traders in Bristol can be found below. To keep fully up-to-date with developments, follow us on Twitter.

Business Start-up and Development Toolkit

The council has worked with local businesses, business advisors and traders' groups to produce a Business Start-up and Development Toolkit (pdf, 583KB) (opens new window) .

Market research

As with any business, whether you’re starting up or expanding, it's important to know your market, both existing and potential customers.

We publish a range of research information that may be of use including:

Consumer classification tools such as those found at Acorn and Mosaic may also be of interest.

If your business is food-based you may be interested in Who Feeds Bristol? (pdf, 11.8MB) (opens new window)

Vacant premises

Vacant premises are often seen as a threat to the high street, but they also offer new business investment opportunities.

See our commercial property page for information on vacant council-owned property. See also the Invest Bristol & Bath website, and the ShopProperty and Estates Gazette websites which effectively provide access to nationwide databases.

Properties which are used for advertising are usually deemed to be occupied for business rate purposes.

Window guidelines for non-commercial advertising

Properties which are used for advertising are usually determined to be occupied for business rate purposes.

For a temporary period, in order to support economic, social, community and environment improvement, we will allow the use of window space, within 1.5 metres from the window, of empty retail units to be used for non-commercial advertising with the property still being classed as unoccupied. 

Read the guidelines. (pdf, 87KB) (opens new window)  

Visual merchandising and window displays

Any business can benefit from quirky, slick and professional advertising. Below is a link to a toolkit on visual merchandising; whether you’re a new business or well established it provides handy tips and tricks to improve your displays: Visual Merchandising and Window Displays toolkit.


Markets are effectively what the city’s high streets evolved from, and they continue to play a major role in terms of its diverse commercial landscape, and in providing start-up and incubation spaces.

See the Markets in Bristol page for a list of the city markets and who to contact for a pitch.

You can also apply for an occasional market or car boot sale licence.

Business rates discounts and exemptions

There are discounts and exemptions that high street businesses can apply for.

Find out how the Valuation Office Agency values properties at GOV.UK.

Connecting Bristol

Online sales are forecast to rise significantly, so while current and emerging technologies can be seen as a threat to high streets and local centres, they can also be seen as an opportunity, especially with Bristol acknowledged to be a leading smart city.

To keep up to date with the latest developments visit Connecting Bristol.

Area-based organisations and projects

There are a number of representative organisations in Bristol related to high streets and local centres.

We seek to provide support to these organisations and projects, fully recognising the role they play in the economic health of the city.

City centre

Destination Bristol is a joint venture between Bristol City Council and Business West.

The organisation works with its partners and other stakeholders to promote the visitor economy and support the city centre. Destination Bristol manages two Business Improvement Districts; the City Centre and Broadmead.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs)

BIDs are partnerships between local authorities and local businesses which are intended to provide additional services or improvements to a specified area.

A BID, lasting for a maximum of five years, must be agreed by ballot and is funded by a levy additional to business rates. 

The following BIDs currently operate in Bristol:

Other local and projects organisations

Organisations operate in Church Road, Coldharbour Road, Christmas Steps, Fishponds, Henleaze, Jacob’s Wells Road, Old Market, Stapleton Road, Chandos Road and Westbury-on-Trym. Glos Rd Central operates in the area of Gloucester Road just above Pigsty Hill.

Night Time Economy

Night Time Industry and Tourism Economy (Night Watch) is an industry group for all that operate between the hours of 5pm to 5am in Bristol’s night time economy. 

It links together the businesses that work in the city’s night industries and business improvement districts with the Police and Council’s teams that service or regulate this economy. 

Find out more at the Night Watch website.

Purple Flag

Purple Flag is a nationally recognised accreditation process similar to the Blue Flag award for beaches. 

It leads to Purple Flag status for town and city centres that meet or surpass the standards of excellence in managing the evening and night-time economy. 

Read more about Bristol’s Purple Flag status.

Training, events and other sources of information

Business West represents and works with over 18,000 businesses across the region, providing a range of support and events.

The City of Bristol College provides training courses for individuals (including via apprenticeships) and employers, covering customer services, health and safety, catering and hospitality.

The Federation of Small Businesses runs a number of events in Bristol that may be of interest.

Show of Strength Theatre Company runs theatre performances in high streets and local centres involving local people to help attract additional footfall.

Other organisations with a strong interest in high streets and local centres include:

Contact us

For further information email business@bristol.gov.uk

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