Bedford mayor says he will make strong case for keeping Debenhams in town

The mayor of Bedford has vowed to present a strong case for securing the future of Bedford’s Debenhams store.

On Tuesday the high street giant rejected a £200million buyout by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley.

Debenhams

Debenhams

The retailer is now in the hands of its lenders as part of a pre-pack administration process.

It means the future of up to 4,000 jobs and 50 stores in the UK, including the Bedford branch, hangs in the balance.

If the Bedford store closed it would be the latest in a line of high street casualties for the town which has already lost BHS, with Marks &Spencer due to shut in May.

No details of which stores may close have been released.

But Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “Debenhams’ troubles are yet another example of the severe nationwide crisis facing all town centres. We will be making the strongest case for the Bedford store to be one of those which is retained.

“With more regeneration plans for the High Street in place, in addition to the recent investment at Riverside Bedford and the Harpur Centre, we believe there is every reason why the Bedford Debenhams can succeed in the future.

“We have a lower empty shop rate than the national average and nearby towns, and we will keep pursuing our vision for an attractive town centre for multiple uses. That way, Bedford will be best placed to withstand these national crises when they strike.”

Christina Rowe, director of operations at Bedford BID, added: “We sincerely hope the Bedford Debenhams branch is not one of the those earmarked for closure.

“We know Debenhams has also been renegotiating rents with landlords to help address its funding problems.

“In the meantime, Bedford continues to welcome new businesses and developments in the town centre.

“We are also awaiting the opening of the former BHS unit to Days department store when more than half of the BHS former stores remain empty. With more than 300 independent retailers in Bedford – 22 per cent higher than the UK average – Bedford has a bounty of unique and specialist businesses and an evening economy which boasts bars, clubs and restaurants which attract customers from further afield.”