Have your say on the future of Bedford town centre

Bedford High Street
Bedford High Street

What do you think the future of Bedford’s town centre should look like?

Bedford Borough Council is writing a new Town Centre Plan, and wants to hear from you. It is designed to find out what people use the town centre for, how often they visit, and what might bring them into town more.

Drop-in sessions are being held in the town centre with a vision wall inviting thoughts and ideas, staffed by members of the council’s economic growth and development team, and Cllr Henry Vann, portfolio holder for town centres.

These responses will then feed into the Town Centre Plan, which will then be published and further feedback invited early next year.

Cllr Vann said “Bedford has a thriving town centre, free parking on offer, loading bays for shoppers, a huge proportion of high quality independent shops and a lower rate of empty shops than most nearby towns and cities. We are the place to come whether you are a business, local resident or visitor.

“With our investment in services in the town centre, the major redevelopment of the High Street coming next summer, and ongoing business rate support the council is doing loads to support the town centre. Every lever is an option and we have lots of ideas, but now we want to hear yours.

“Bedford town centre belongs to all of us and it really is what we make it. Please respond to the consultation, come along and meet me and team at one of our drop-in sessions, and give us your thoughts.”

Sam Laycock, chairman of BedfordBID group which brings together firms across the town centre, said “It is crucial that Bedford continues to hold its market position whilst recognising how it needs to adapt to change; the way people use the high street is evolving.

“Understanding what people want and need from their town centre will be critical to the success of our town centre businesses. We strongly encourage everyone to take part and contribute to this important process of creating a new Town Centre Plan and have your say.”

However Cllr Graeme Coombes, leader of the Conservative opposition group at Bedford Borough Council, said it was overdue.

He said: “Bedford continues to face the challenge posed by out of town retail and online shopping, resulting in reduced footfall. Despite this, our town centre has an incredible offering, including our magnificent Embankment setting and brilliant independent retailers which sets us apart from our rivals.

“Residents and businesses know best how we can make the most of these attributes so we expect the council to listen to their ideas and act on their concerns.”

The survey is open until Friday, September 27. Take part at https://forms.bedford.gov.uk/TCS/

There will also be paper copies available at Borough Hall, the Customer Service Centre and local libraries, which can be sent to Consulting Bedford, Bedford Borough Council, Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford, MK42 9AP.