Bedford set for Xmas shopping bonanza - despite empty BHS

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Bedford town centre is set for a jingle tills Christmas with a MILLION shoppers predicted to visit the Harpur centre.

Bedford BID has planned everything from festive fireworks to an avalanche of media advertising to entice shoppers to spend, spend, spend.

Meanwhile mayor Dave Hodgson unveiled his trump card this week – free parking in the Queen Street multi- storey.

The current two hours’ free parking on Saturdays scheme will now be extended to every day of the week on a permanent basis.

“We want people to remember that free parking in Bedford is for life, not just for Christmas!” said Dave.

The Harpur Centre’s underground car park is free on Sundays and also for late night shoppers on Thursdays after 5.30pm.

Charges will be waived completely on late nights for those making last-minute purchases between Monday, December 19 and Friday, December 23.

So far Bedford has bucked the national trend and shown a year-on-year rise in shoppers.

In October footfall in the town centre rose by 11 per cent – the best in six years. It compared to a national increase of just 0.4 per cent.

Dave said: “We know how important this period is for local traders and we want to support them to have a successful Christmas period while encouraging residents and visitors to enjoy Bedford town centre.”

BID have provided extra Christmas lights and businesses are adding their own sparkle with window displays to help make the town look attractive.

Meanwhile the Harpur Centre has announced its expectation of reaching 1,000,000 visitors in the month of December.

The only blight in the Bedford bonanza is the former BHS store, which is still standing empty in the prime part of town.

It is understood that the owners have been in negotiations with several retailers but none has made a firm offer.

Mayor Dave added: “In common with towns across the country, Bedford now features a large empty unit where BHS used to be.

“However, with our rising footfall and mix of shops and attractions, including the forthcoming new Riverside restaurants and town centre cinema, we believe Bedford is an attractive location for potential occupants.”