Breaking News: Bedford Borough Council planning to buy former Debenhams building

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Bedford Borough Council has announced plans to buy the former Debenhams building in a “strategic move to rejuvenate our [Bedford’s} High Street” and “foster economic growth.”

In a statement issued at lunchtime today, Mayor Tom Wootton (Conservative) 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.

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

Bedford Borough Council also say they are the preferred bidder for the purchase.

Cllr Andrea Spice (Conservative, Wilstead and Wixams), portfolio holder for town centres and planning, says the move is part of the Council’s Town Centres’ vision unveiled in September and outlines the Mayor’s aspirations for Bedford and Kempston town centres.

“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,” she says.

“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 Liberal Democrats have jumped on the announcement, highlighting work carried out by their administration that they say was “accelerating” town centre regeneration plans.

Cllr Christine McHugh (Liberal Democrats, Goldington) 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.”