Bedford outlines plans for £1.7m town centre heritage funding


Regeneration funding of £1.76m has been awarded to Bedford High Street to encourage more people to visit the town centre.

The scheme will reinstate the high street as one of the architectural high points of the town, revealing and enhancing historic features on buildings and realising the town’s potential through an improved and more inviting environment for shoppers and visitors.

In addition, work to reduce traffic and attract the wider community back into the area is planned.

Read:Bedford awarded £2 million historic high street fund

The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and LoveBedford – Bedford BID – are also contributing funding.

The High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) programme is run by Historic England on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, with a contribution from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It encourages partnerships with local organisations, building owners and occupiers to secure lasting improvements to buildings and the public realm. The initiative aims to make the high street a more attractive place for residents to visit and shop.

Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) is one of the partners collaborating with Bedford Borough Council to deliver the cultural programme.

“High quality cultural and heritage assets can help to generate a sense of civic pride in a town like Bedford,” said BCA director, Elaine Midgley.

“They help to define and celebrate the identity of a place and fundamentally enhance the public realm.

“In research carried out for CABE, 85% of people in England agree that the quality of the built environment influences the way they feel.

“This investment is a great way for Bedford to claim and celebrate its heritage and share those stories of the people, buildings, businesses, discoveries and history that makes it the town it is today.

“We hope to start with a celebratory mural project that blends a historic design style with mobile phone technology for more interactivity whilst beginning to work with the community to find the stories we’d like to celebrate in a wide variety of ways over the next few years.”

The latest heritage funding follows the successful transformation of 16 buildings on Bedford High Street as part of the £1.95m Townscape Heritage Initiative project.

Bedford Borough Council has currently earmarked 43 buildings as eligible for funding under the HSHAZ programme and is seeking to work with landlords.

Improvements to these buildings could include:

· Reinstatement of traditional shopfronts.

· Conversion of vacant floor space for retail and/or residential use.

· Repair and reinstatement of architectural details to the façade of buildings.

· Undertaking structural works to help achieve these improvements.

It follows the successful Heritage

Councillor Henry Vann, Portfolio Holder for Town Centres and Planning said, “Yet more investment has been secured for our town centre and we are delighted with the success of our High Street Heritage Action Zone bid.

“High streets across the UK are facing challenging times but in Bedford Borough, with our shared vision and exciting partnerships with local businesses and communities, we will be able to provide a real boost to the High Street for those who live in, work in, learn in, shop in and visit our town.

“Bedford has such a rich, diverse history and heritage and this funding will help us restore some of the buildings that play such a vital role in that history as well as help us to try and bring some buildings back into use, further supporting town centre businesses.

“Through our work with Historic England and local partners, we will be able to make real physical improvements to the appearance of Bedford’s High Street and historic buildings.”

Tony Calladine, Regional Director at Historic England in the East of England, said, “Investing in heritage delivers good results for people – it means looking after and celebrating the places at the heart of our communities, and the buildings and public spaces which define their character.

“This investment for our historic High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme will unlock the potential of these precious high streets and help them thrive again.”

If you are a building owner in Bedford Borough and your premises falls within the High Street Heritage Action Zone, you can speak with the HSHAZ team about possible refurbishments to your property. If you would like to get in touch, please contact Jessica Mittler, HSHAZ Project Manager 01234 276452

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