We spoke to four local people for their ideas to revitalise Bedford. What do you think of their suggestions - and what would you suggest? Email us on email@example.com
Apu Bagchi, who was mayor from 1996-1997, believes that it could bring a European-style ‘cafe society’ feel to town.
He said: “After 5.30pm the town centre is as dead as a dodo. It’s not family-friendly, and when people do come into town for events at the theatre then there’s no secondary spending.
“The area I am thinking of in particular is around the Harpur Centre. That’s the heart of the town centre, and if you were in a similar-size town in Europe then it would be really buzzing.
“Little shops could open up, you could have boutiques with restaurants, and people of all ages could feel it is a place worth going to.”
Mr Bagchi, who lives in the Castle Road area, has been a councillor for 22 years, and was mayor before it was an elected role leading Bedford Borough Council. He was later deputy mayor to Frank Branston, and served in his cabinet.
He added: “This would work particularly well in the summer when the weather is at its best.
“If people go to the Corn Exchange or the Harpur Suite there is nowhere that families can go, only pubs really on the High Street or in town. Creating a hub in that area would be a real boost to the economy.”
“THERE are so many people who want to work together to make Bedford better, and there are loads of great things already happening - we need to harness that.”
That is the view of Karen Fryc, who is a member of the Castle Quarter group which brings together businesses from the Castle Quarter area of Bedford.
Karen singled out the council-run Tourist Information Centre as one example of how the town does not shout about what currently happens in Bedford.
She said: “If you go to the Tourist Information Centre it’s full of information of what’s going on in other towns, or how to get to other places. If people who already live in Bedford can’t easily find out what’s going on here then how can we expect other people to know and to come here from out of town?
“I tried calling the centre to see what gigs are on this weekend, but all I got was a recording of railway times and the London Underground, plus a message to go to the website.”
Karen, who also runs the children’s party and furniture shop Little Monkey Murals, added: “There are fantastic places to go in Bedford. A lot of them are in the Castle Quarter, such as the independent businesses or the comedy night that’s starting up again in the Ent Shed.
“There are some great restaurants in town, there’s Esquires, there’s all sorts. But there’s nothing bringing it together, whether to tell people what’s going on, or to tell the people who organise these events how they can get help.”
ERICA Roffe is a community campaigner with a vested interest in Bedford town centre. As part of the We Are Bedford group and as creator of community magazine The Bedford Clanger, Erica works hard to promote everything good that the town has to offer.
She said: “I think that it is great that the council is investing in the town centre as part of the Riverside North Development.
“But I would like to see their efforts geared up more to the rest of the town and I really don’t feel like there is sufficient parking in the plans.
“I would like to see a rethink with provision for some sort of community space in the development. Something like a bridge with seeding and planting where people could sit and meet.
“A sustainable structure which would be unique to Bedford. The river is the jewel in the crown of this town and if we could stand on the river overlooking the town how gorgeous would that be?”
And Erica also believes that money could be spent more wisely on other long-awaited town centre projects.
She said: “I would welcome the pedestrianisation of St Pauls Square and the regeneration of that area before this. And we are still waiting for the bus station redevelopment.
“I’m not against the plans, improving Bedford town centre is inevitable but I think but I think it needs to be given more consideration.”
INDEPENDENT business owner Justin Waldock runs The Cheese Kitchen in Castle Road.
And he believes that creating more parking spaces and capitalising on good things that the town already has are the keys to success.
He said: “I would like to see a lot more done to develop this area because we are just left to our own devices at the moment.
“I’m not sure the Riverside North Development is really where the focus should be because it is situated in the wrong part of town.
“It would just give people less reason to go into town, on the other hand that space is not being used but I would like to see more community things going on in that area.”
And Justin claimed that the money could be spent making great areas of town even better.
He said: “A very small amount of investment could make the Castle Quarter or the Embankment much better areas, but the council seems to look more at massive projects.
“Maybe they could put a car park there instead of the Riverside North Development because car parking is a problem.”
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Weather for Bedford
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 29 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 6 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North