The transformation of Bedford High Street will begin in February, with the first phase completed by July and the entire project finished by November.
The regeneration will see widened pavements and the High Street reduced to one lane of traffic to create more space for shoppers, residents and pedestrians.
The long-term aim is to enhance the town centre experience, enabling a more pleasant pedestrian environment with wider pavements, less ‘clutter’, more seating and more planting.
Traffic will be restricted to 20mph with speed enforcement and there will also be short-term parking and loading bays at intervals along the road.
Works will be undertaken in stages so that the whole road will not be closed at once and the work is being carefully planned with businesses to maintain access.
Initially, the length of the road from St Peters Street to Mill Street will be closed from February until July, with this length then re-opened and the southern half of the street down to the Embankment then closing.
Signed diversions will be in place.
Wider pavements and short term parking bays
Once complete, the High Street will feature permanent loading and short-term parking bays for shoppers.
High-quality York paving on wider pavements and granite kerbstones will enhance the look of the town centre.
One town planner told us, “Car users should question why they use the High Street, a road that was congested with delivery lorries and waiting cars, speed restricted, interrupted by pedestrian crossings/lights.
“Once the works are carried out and the cones removed, we will see and experience the benefits.”
The project is part of Transporting Bedford, an £18million project to tackle congestion hotspots in Bedford, funded by both Bedford Borough Council and £15.5M funding from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), through the Local Growth Fund.
It represents the largest ever investment in Bedford’s roads.
Cllr Henry Vann, Portfolio Holder for Town Centres said: “After the year that was 2020, we hope that this High Street regeneration project will help give a long-term boost to our town centre.
“The temporary one-lane has already been welcomed by local businesses. With improved air quality, less traffic, better access to businesses, and less noise we hope this will support our High Street shops and restaurants, improve accessibility and open up the street scene, creating a great atmosphere where people want to spend more time, support their town centre and come visit from elsewhere.”
Non-stopping traffic will be encouraged to use alternative routes so that the High Street becomes a nicer place to spend time.
“Improvements to well-known congestion hotspots via the Transporting Bedford project are helping to ease congestion through our town.”
BedfordBID, which represents businesses within the town centre, welcomed the investment.
Samantha Laycock, Chair of the Love Bedford Business Improvement District (BID) said: “This adds to the recent announcements of the Town Investment Plan project and High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative to help future proof the town and businesses for the years ahead.”
Judith Barker, Director of Programmes and Governance at SEMLEP said “During this time it’s particularly important that we keep supporting and investing in our town centres, our infrastructure and in our businesses.
“We’re pleased to see works commence in the High Street which will bring improvements to the town centre.”