Bedford Borough Council have today unveiled their plans for the transformation of the High Street as part of Transporting Bedford 2020.
The main thoroughfare through the town centre will undergo major improvement works which will result in reducing traffic to one lane and creating more space for shoppers and visitors on wider pavements.
As town centres up and down the county struggle in the face of online competition, high rents, business rates and parking charges, this investment is seen as a way to buck the trend and create a safer and more attractive visitor experience.
Mayor Dave Hodgson said “The High Street transformation will bring real improvements to residents, shoppers, businesses and visitors to Bedford as well as helping to improve the road network for cyclists, bus users and drivers.
“The transformation will see wider pavements with new high quality Yorkstone paving, new loading and parking bays, a new junction arrangement at The Embankment and improvements to traffic flows.”
There has been a mixed reaction to the plans which the Council shared on their social media platforms today.
“There are traffic pinch points wherever traffics crosses from north to south or south to north across the river,” said Helen Patterson of the Town Centre Champions.
“Reducing the high street to one lane will have an adverse impact on the other pinch points.
“No matter how attractive the high street becomes, business rates will still limit the potential success of all shops regardless if they are on the high street or not.
“Much traffic in the high street is created by ineffective routes elsewhere in the town. For instance, being unable to turn left upon exiting River Street; instead you have to take a complete detour around the entire town centre to get to where you would have been in just seconds if you were allowed to simply turn left.
“I’m not convinced we will have much of a high street left by the time the works have been completed. Businesses need support with business rates now.”
Commenting on the Council’s Facebook post, resident Cherrie Griggs wrote, “Think I might be the only one who doesn’t see this as a bad thing.
“It’s horrendous walking down there with a buggy or even kids next to you. Plus may actually get drivers to either find another route to stop the silly amount of congestion or if short distances walk/bike.”
Businesswoman, Emma Garrett said, “More accommodation in the town centre might encourage families and residents to socialise in local high street restaurants, cafes and bars which at the moment are overrun with students and weekend binge drinkers.
“This would seem to be a great way to transform some of the empty shops.”