A major landmark building is set to be knocked down next week to mark the start of work on the controversial Riverside North development.
A demolition squad will begin work on Monday to knock down the Town Hall tower off St Paul’s Square that has been empty for two years.
And this week Bedford Borough Council, which is behind the scheme, invited the Times & Citizen to take one last look at the shell of the former council building.
The Riverside North development project is due to be completed in around 18 months and will see the Town Hall and two associated building knocked down to make way for a public square, with a cinema, shops and restaurants.
During a tour of the building Colin McQueston, director of Co-Plan Estates, the council’s development partner for the scheme, revealed to the T&C it has recently signed a deal for Vue Entertainment Ltd to open a cinema in the town, as part of the scheme.
He said: “We are very pleased to announce, and you are the first people I have told, that we have signed a deal with Vue to open a seven-screen cinema in the town centre.
“I don’t believe that we actually offer a true cinema experience in Bedford. People want to make a night or day of it, have a meal or a drink before or after the film. But they can’t do that in Bedford.”
He added: “As a developer we have been working on this project for two-and-a-half years in, at times, very hard economic conditions.
“Hopefully this is a stepping stone that will transform Bedford town centre and open up the river .”
Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson said: “This town hall is going to come down and make way for a public square, about half the size of a football pitch, that will replace this - a new public square for Bedford.
“It’s the first part of the development for Riverside that will actually bring us a new town centre cinema. Many people will remember going to the cinema in the town centre as really great.
“We’re going to bring everyone back into town, a new hotel further up the river towards the Prebend Street bridge, and a load of restaurants, a few shops and some residential properties.”