Column by Rachael Hunt, South Gloucestershire Council's cabinet member for communities and local place.

Our fantastic high streets are essential social and economic hubs. Following the pandemic, they need support to recover and thrive. So, I am very pleased to tell you that we have now distributed ‘Help us Thrive’ funding totalling just under £400,000 to South Gloucestershire community groups and businesses to boost all eight of our high streets.

Sixty-three projects received £399,824 funding in total. Community groups could apply for funding up to £20,000; new businesses for up to £10,000, and existing businesses for up to £5,000. Applications over £5,000 required evidence of investment in kind, or match funding.

The funding is aimed at diversifying high streets and introducing new technologies to help them evolve. One of the innovative new projects we’ve funded is Filton High Street’s Reptile Zone’s ‘Jurassic Events’ which will offer dinosaur-themed experiences by purchasing high-end, dinosaur animatronics. Filton High Street will be one of only two locations in the UK to offer this kind of animatronics. I can’t wait to try it.

The funding also supports growth of existing employment opportunities, local communities helping themselves, and encourages social inclusion, whilst supporting community initiatives and independent and small businesses. Another fantastic project to receive funding is Wallace Barbers on Thornbury High Street for their ‘LET’S GET TALKING’ men’s mental health programme. The barbers will open for additional hours to hold ‘cut and talk’ sessions, allowing men to talk about mental health in a comfortable and supportive environment.

We’re also funding The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association Bristol and South Gloucestershire new Veteran’s Hub and Charity Shop on Kingswood High Street. This will be a place for veterans to socialise and volunteer and will highlight Kingswood High Street to a whole new social group.

Young people in Staple Hill can look forward to the YOU Foundation’s ‘The Boarding School’, another ‘Help us Thrive’ funded project. This will be a new, indoor skateboard school which will help children to feel part of a group. Parents can shop in Staple Hill while their children are at the skate school, helping the local area to thrive.

I am so looking forward to seeing the ‘Help Us Thrive’ projects up and running. The funding will give our high streets the boost they deserve.