Council reveals plans to buy former Debenhams building in Bedford town centre

The store closed in May 2021
The closed Debenhams store in Bedford. Picture: Tony MargiocchiThe closed Debenhams store in Bedford. Picture: Tony Margiocchi
The closed Debenhams store in Bedford. Picture: Tony Margiocchi

After years of uncertainty, Bedford Council has revealed plans to buy the former Debenhams building in Bedford town centre – and says it is ‘the preferred bidder'

The store has been empty since closing in May 2021 – and was only put on the market last month with a £3million price tag.

Mayor Tom Wootton said: "The potential purchase of the Debenhams store is a strategic move to rejuvenate our High Street and create a thriving hub for our community. High Streets are the heart and soul of our towns, and this investment reflects our commitment to their revitalisation. We believe that by taking this bold step, we can continue to develop a more exciting town centre offer for residents and visitors alike.

The former Debenhams site on the corner of Bedford High Street and Silver StreetThe former Debenhams site on the corner of Bedford High Street and Silver Street
The former Debenhams site on the corner of Bedford High Street and Silver Street

“This is part of our wider vision, which will see us futureproof Bedford Borough for decades to come."

Councillor Andrea Spice, portfolio holder for town centres and planning, explained how the move is part of the council’s town centres’ vision which was unveiled in September and outlines hopes for Bedford and Kempston town centres, creating a framework for making them areas where people want to live, work, shop and spend time.

She added: "We all know of the challenges faced by traditional retail spaces. Our vision is to transform the town centres into vibrant hubs that offer shopping, services for the community, and leisure, cultural, business and residential spaces, with distinctive quarters that reflect history, heritage and culture.

"We are eager to collaborate with partners to attract new tenants and create an environment that reflects the dynamic spirit of Bedford. As Tom has already said, Bedford's best days are ahead of us. And we hope this is another step forward.”

The news comes after the Lib Dems called for ‘urgency’ in redevelopment plans at the start of November.

Lib Dem councillor Christine McHugh said: “Plans for the town centre were accelerating under the previous administration so it was worrying that more than six months on, the Tories had done so little.

“We of course welcome this decision as we have been calling for action from the council to ensure that the opportunity to develop Mayes Yard and the surrounding area as part of a vibrant town centre and the possibility to secure more investment for the town centre wouldn’t be lost.

“The mayor must now ensure that this development is well managed with mixed-use units including shops and restaurants, as well as residential.”