New scheme proposes hundreds of new rental homes in Bedford’s town centre

2-30 Greyfriars, Bedford Googlemaps Screenshot

Hundreds of new rental homes could be coming to Bedford’s town centre, if a proposed scheme goes ahead.

Castlecap and its partners gave a presentation on its Build to Rent (BTR) scheme for the corner of Greyfriars and Midland Road (2/30 Greyfriars & 75/87 Midland Road) to Bedford Borough Council’s Housing Committee on Wednesday, 7 September.

The committee members were told the scheme would create “high-quality and much needed” residential homes in Bedford, and remove “functionally obsolescent” buildings in the town centre.

Piers Rooke, Castlecap’s ceo, said: “We feel that there’s a really unique and exciting opportunity, particularly given what’s happened post-covid, to regenerate that area, to produce buildings and an offering that meets modern criteria.”

The plan is to deliver a mix of studio apartments and, one, two and three bedroom homes. The scheme would come with onsite facilities, which could include a gym, a cinema room and public spaces, all of which would be included within the rental fees.

Councillor Stephen Moon (Conservative, Great Barford) asked how many units would be required to make the scheme viable.

David Hughes, from Alchemy and is the development manager for the scheme, said the larger institutional investors for this type of quality scheme look for a minimum of 250 to 300 units.

Councillor Fouzia Zamir Atiq (Labour, Cauldwell) said: “I personally think the
Midland Road area and Greyfriars area is a quite deprived area.

“How did you arrive at £800 rent for a one bedroom flat in a deprived area,” she asked.

Mr Hughes replied that BTR is very different to typical private rent sector offer.

“You don’t get the quality of construction, you don’t get the quality of management of the scheme, you don’t get the amenities that are on offer in BTR schemes,” he said.

“Whilst it is higher than maybe you would typically see currently, you get a lot more for your money and therefore people who live in those places will get a lot more benefit.”

Clint Bartman, from Cortland Consult, added: “This build to rent will help to uplift that area.

“And the goal is to uplift the area, that’s what should be the objective of all of us,” he said.

Some of the homes will be available at a discount market rent (DMR) for key workers.

Mr Bartman explained that its the council who determines who qualifies to go into the DMR (typically 20 per cent below market rate).

He added that the DMR units are tenure blind and blend in with the market rate units.

“They get the exact same services, the exact same furniture, the exact same fit out, and they get that same level and quality of service which comes with BTR,” he said

Responding to a question on timescales. Mr Rooke said: “We have time to work with the community and the council to communicate our vision to discuss and debate what we want to do.

“We can afford the time to spend with you all, and with the local community, ensuring that we get this right,” he said.

By John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter