"Urgency” needed to develop “prime” Bedford town centre location at former Beales/Debenhams site says councillor

“This is a prime site, it’s a lot of square metres of empty retail space”
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There should be “some urgency” to develop a “prime” Bedford town centre site, a borough councillor has said.

The Budget and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee was told last night (November 2) that an update on plans for the former Beales/Debenhams site was published in March.

Councillor Christine McHugh (Lib Dems, Goldington) asked for an update on progress made since then and when the public would be able to have a say about the plans.

The former Bedford Debenhams Screenshot Google Streetview (C)2023 Google Image capture June 2023The former Bedford Debenhams Screenshot Google Streetview (C)2023 Google Image capture June 2023
The former Bedford Debenhams Screenshot Google Streetview (C)2023 Google Image capture June 2023

Patrick Lyons, manager for Bedford Town Deal replied: “The main progress since March is obviously the allocation within the local plan and the process of that going forward.

“In terms of something to bring to the public, to ask for comments or consideration, we’re not immediately at that stage,” he said.

A briefing note presented to the committee said that council officers continue to work with parties to formulate a “holistic, joined-up approach” to the complex assets within the site.

It added that this is to bring forward a scheme and plan with the objective of delivering “grade A space” for uses including residential, retail, food & beverage, leisure, and traditional retail.

Before a private session to discuss commercial aspects of the site’s plans, councillor McHugh said the Committee should support work to bring the site forward.

“I appreciate there are difficulties, but I’d like to have thought that there was some urgency,” she said.

“This is a prime site, it’s a lot of square metres of empty retail space, I’d have thought it should be a real urgent issue to bring it forward.”