Bedford High Street The copyright on this image is owned by Danny Robinson and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Implementation of the High Street Heritage Action Zone

Bedford Borough Councillors are due to discuss the Bedford Town Centre Plan at the Council’s Executive Meeting, to be held on Wednesday 24 June 2020. The Bedford Town Centre Plan sets out a vision, built on Bedford being a great place to “live, work, shop, learn and explore”.

Following 2019’s consultation, ideas from Borough residents and beyond have contributed to the plan. Respondents overwhelmingly highlighted the river as their favourite aspect of the town centre, as well as many of Bedford’s independent shops.

The Council added that the consultation highlighted a need for greater diversity of provision in the town centre, including more opportunities for leisure activities.

Cllr Henry Vann, portfolio holder for town centres and planning, said:

“Bedford’s independent businesses, communities, the Great Ouse and beautiful embankment, thriving events, and rich, diverse, history are powerful assets that this plan aims to celebrate and enhance.

“This dedicated Town Centre Plan brings together all the amazing work going on and will help drive much of this work forward. It will help celebrate our vibrant and diverse communities and our historic town, maximising and displaying Bedford unique offer.

“Retail alone is not the future of town centres and to support our thriving local entrepreneurs we will continue to work hard to encourage a wider and more diverse offer in our town centre.

“A huge thank you to the thousands of people who responded to our consultation.”

Creating public performance spaces and support for more community events

Local suggestions have been developed into actions in the plan and these have been brought together in six distinct categories:

  1. Strategic
  2. Regulatory (planning)
  3. Promotion
  4. Events and leisure
  5. Environment
  6. Connectivity

Plans from these categories include:

  • Improving the local environment through the implementation of the High Street Heritage Action Zone
  • Reforming planning policy to promote a wider range of uses of property in the town centre
  • Improving boundary signage to highlight the town centre offering
  • Developing new regeneration projects
  • Supporting connectivity and in particular improvements for pedestrians, cyclists, new loading bays for shoppers and more
  • Creating public performance spaces and support for more community events

The Council said that some of this work is already underway with the support of the Mayor’s Town Centre Priority Fund.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the town centre, with all but essential businesses closing for three months. This change in circumstances has been reflected in the Town Centre Plan and the Council said that the plan will help to aid the recovery.