BUSINESS owners say their once-vibrant area is plagued by pigeons, parking issues, sex workers and drug dealers – but their pleas for help are falling on deaf ears.
Bristol is famed for its historical landmarks like the Clifton Suspension Bridge and its arts and culture, particularly political street artist Banksy.
But on one of the main routes into the city, the A432, a small commercial area is struggling with a string of issues threatening to kill off their high street.
In Eastville, on the Fishponds Road, sits a row of shops including three butchers, grocery shops, an off-licence and take-aways which cater for the local community.
Name any of the plethora of local issues and it seems the people on this small stretch in BS5 are suffering.
Businessman Abdul Malik, 50, owns Pakeeza Butchers, one of six businesses he runs in Bristol and Cardiff.
He is also chairman at the local mosque and a serving magistrate.
“A lot of the traders have been here over a decade, some two decades. This is the main artery into Bristol,” he says.
“Anywhere else this kind of community would be celebrated. It needs nice signs, nice shops fronts, banners, clean streets and parking.
“It’s sad that it’s turned into this place where there’s a lot of pigeons roosting and making mess. There’s no parking for our customers and there should be more support, especially at a time when things are financially difficult.
Most read in The Sun
“Some of the businesses have bounce-back loans after Covid and are having to pay staff more because of the cost of living crisis so there should be more support for them.
“There are also the physical problems. We have problems with rats, pigeons, hygiene issues with the health and safety now that we’re having to store our bins in our shops because the council changed its policy on how we can store refuse.
“If you’re keeping them inside the shop there’s a chance of infestation with rats or cockroaches. We got a ‘zero’ food hygiene rating because there were pigeons nesting in our signs, and we refused to move them until the chicks hatched. Only after that did we get our five stars back.
Abdul also says the road has a historic problem with sex workers and drug dealers, despite attempts by police to crack down.
He says: “Now they’re renting property, dealing from cars, and doing the same criminal activity, we see the effects of that type of criminality and customers do complain, which all adds to the perception of Fishponds Road and BS5.
“This road was changed to improve it five years ago, the pavements were widened, the bus lanes put in, but there was no consideration for our shops, there are no parking spaces for our customers and no loading bays.
“There is a multi-layered, multitude of problems which are causing small businesses to suffer. People are going through a really difficult time because the area our shops are in is dilapidated.”
All the shops in the vicinity have ‘pigeon-proof’ spikes fitted above their signs, but it doesn’t stop the birds from sitting in any gap they can find.
On the day The Sun visited the area the pungent smell of cannabis wafted in the air, with no sign of where the unmistakable aroma was coming from.
Local resident Sohaib Khan, 54, told us how he often witnessed drug deals taking place.
He said: “In the evening I’ve seen drugs being sold by people on bicycles. Glass bottles are smashed all over the road, drunken people are shouting in the street so I can’t sleep.
“I’ve been offered drugs and even been approached by two or three prostitutes, even though I’m wearing my Islamic clothing. The area needs cleaning up.”
Bahran Rahimi, 33, is relatively new to the area, having opened his shop Eastville Takeaway in June last year.
He said: “At night, there are people selling themselves, there are homeless people and drunks. You can come to open the shop and people are sleeping in the doorway.
“Sometimes people living nearby leave their rubbish in the doorway too, which is not nice for the area, and all these things put customers off.
“We realised pigeons were also a problem, so I went to Screwfix and spent about £150 on the spikes to stop them sitting on my roof and leaving their mess.
“It shouldn’t be impossible to park where there are local traders. Last week I had a customer come in to collect an order, and a minute later he got a ticket on his car which cost him £35, so it was an expensive meal.”
Shop owner Ali Asghar, 62, has run Chaudry Halal Meats and Fish and for 23 years.
He said: “The main issue for me is that we don’t have parking. As local shops we should have a right to parking bays. When I get a delivery, the driver has to park in a residential street, and I have to collect it and carry it back to the shop.
“Other areas get a lot of support and parking provision, but it’s like we are forgotten. There’s not only one issue, we have lots of issues which need addressing.”
Customer Saki Bandali, 67, gets dropped off outside on the double yellow lines so she can do her weekly shopping.
“I’ve been coming here about three years, but I can’t come in the evening, so I just hope when I get dropped off, we don’t get a ticket.
“As a customer I don’t see too many of the other problems the traders see, but for me the lack of parking is a major issue. There needs to be spaces so it’s not so difficult for people to come to these shops.
“I hope these businesses get the support they need so they can stay open and serve the local community.”
A stone’s throw away, directly off Fishponds Road, turn into St Marks Road and it’s like being in a different city altogether.
The road is dressed in pretty lights with cobbled areas and is home to a host of small independent businesses including restaurants, cafes and specialist shops.
Every year it attracts thousands of people who flock there for the annual street party and it was voted the best street in Britain, scooping the award for Great Street in the 2020 Urbanism Awards.
Business owners there rallied outside the mosque on Thursday as part of the ‘Six to Fix’ campaign, in which they are calling on Bristol City Council to address issues including potholes, signs, cycle lanes, pavements, parking and loading.
South Bristol police Inspector Chris Green, told Bristol Live: “The Neighbourhood Policing team is committed to working and engaging proactively with local businesses, residents and community leaders to identify and tackle crime, including anti-social behaviour.
“Since the beginning of August, we’ve received a small number of reports relating to anti-social behaviour for this area, but we know issues are being under-reported. We have seen an increase in thefts from shops and we’ve been proactive in tackling this, with a number of arrests made.
Read more on the Irish Sun
“In relation to concerns about sex work in the area, we’d like to reassure the community that we have an ongoing operation focusing on targeting kerb crawlers, while also safeguarding and supporting the vulnerable people, mainly women, who engage in sex work both on and off-street.”
Bristol City Council was contacted for comment.