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Mayor Dave Writes: String of Investment Successes for Bedford Town Centre

June 15, 2017 12:42 PM

Riverside Bedford Pre-OpeningIn his latest monthly column for the Bedford Bulletin publication, Mayor Dave Hodgson has written of a string of major investment successes for Bedford Town Centre, in defiance of a wider crisis for UK high streets.

With the Harpur Centre owners revealing major upgrade plans, the large BHS store due to be filled shortly and, crucially, the £36 million Riverside Bedford scheme opening this summer, there is good cause for optimism for the town.

The investment boosts come on the back of three successive years of footfall growth since the introduction of the Mayor's Free Parking Deal.

The full text of the column is as follows:

The UK High Street is in crisis. In recent years, shop closures have accelerated across the country in the face of growing trends towards out-of-town and, in particular, online shopping.

In Bedford, however, a string of recent developments and announcements suggest we can and will continue to buck the wider trends. Riverside Bedford is now weeks away from opening. This exciting £36 million development is bringing town centre cinema back to Bedford, alongside new public space, riverside restaurants, a hotel and much more. Crucially, it is also creating 200 new jobs, and will bring new visitors to Bedford, benefitting our existing traders.

Riverside Bedford is key to our vision of a town centre which is attractive for retail but also for leisure, culture, food and drink and more. This has also been supported by £6 million redevelopment of The Higgins Bedford and the heritage based regeneration scheme for the High Street, with its impressive restorations of historic buildings.

Another boost for the town centre has arrived in the form of the announcement of a major investment in the Harpur Centre, with its owners releasing plans for a significant upgrade of the site. In addition, a large new clothing-based department store is planned for the former BHS unit.

All of these developments come as Bedford town centre is on course for a fourth successive year of footfall growth. This rise has coincided with our ongoing Free Parking Deal, which gives you your first two hours free in the council's town centre car parks on Saturdays, amongst other offers.

There's no reason for complacency in the face of the difficult wider trends for the country's town centres. There are a growing number of reasons to visit and enjoy Bedford, however, and that will stand it in good stead in the coming years.

Dave Hodgson