Multi-millions invested in Bedford

Published on 17 January 2020

Event in Bedford Town Centre

Bedford town centre has benefited from multi-millions of pounds of investment over the past decade.

From businesses contributing to a central pot as part of the Business Improvement District (BID) at a rate of £400,000 per year since 2005, to the council’s vision of the multi-multi-million Riverside Vue cinema, Premier Inn and big brand restaurant complex - money has been pouring in.
BedfordBID promotes all activities in the town centre under the well-established Love Bedford brand across multiple channels - both within the Borough and farther afield. This joint approach to marketing is a shop window for the town.

Bedford Borough Council supported the Riverside development which was expected to bring in 500,000 visitors per year to the town. The council continues to work closely with community groups who stage events and showcase activities within the town centre. Bedford Corn Exchange, the large events venue has a brand new website selling shows.

All visitors to Bedford town centre are spread across a ‘square kilometre’ zone stretching from the riverside Victorian Embankment - with its eye-catching bridges and rowers on the water to Tavistock Street where a wide range of exotic restaurants are well established. The North East corner is the home of the Bedford Rugby Club ground, firmly rooted in the local community and bringing in 2,000 followers regular and 5,000 on high days. South of the river is the very recently refurbished Mercure Hotel and Bedford College which tips 1,000s of vital young students and staff into the town centre, Monday to Friday.

Jewel in the crown is the Bedford Swan Hotel which is undergoing millions of pounds of investment thanks to new owners who are ensuring the 17th century coaching inn provides a superb gateway to the town for overseas visitors.

On top of this, corporate and private landlords are applying new thinking to properties and premises. 

The Harpur Centre, under new management has undergone a multi-million refurbishment in the fabric of the building. It boasts some of the best crowd-pulling names like Primark, Greggs, Boots and Superdrug.
The stylish Edwardian Arcade has been reconfigured by the latest owners to allow for smaller businesses to take units. 

Maysons menswear on the High Street is an example of previously empty property being redesigned by an innovative owner with flats upstairs and a designer brand retail showcase at eye level. 

Independents make up the Castle Quay zone just behind the High Street - with offerings from restaurants, a popular book shop, fashion store and the Higgins Museum, which together with the Panacea Museum makes this the “cultural” quarter too.

In fact, 100s of INDEPENDENTS are an important part of keeping Bedford fresh and alive. Every month a new one opens offering services or selling items which cannot be found in the national retail chains. Often start-ups or one person businesses, these independents benefit from the “all for one” approach and expertise offered by BedfordBID and its Love Bedford platforms. The smallest businesses do not have to pay into the pot, but enjoy the benefits for free. The biggest contribution by far is from big properties owners - which includes the council - effectively channelling council cash into the town centre.

Sam Laycock, who is Chair of the volunteer Board of the BedfordBID (and Manager of the Harpur Shopping Centre) said: “It was the best possible news for Bedford when the BID was voted in again. We start BID 4 in April and will be adjusting our efforts in keeping with the changing demands facing the town centre and its constituent businesses. All that we ask of the many people living in and around the town centre is they make the effort to come and visit us once a week - only with their support can the town centre thrive.”
Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson said: “Alongside Love Bedford, local businesses and many others passionate about our town we’re working to encourage and support new and established businesses in Bedford.
We are always looking to the future while protecting the heritage of our town centre. We have successfully bid for funding to enhance look and feel of the High Street, and are starting works this year to reduce traffic and create more space for shoppers.

With a busy programme of events and activities taking place throughout the year, offers such as ‘fiverfest’ and ‘beat the blues’ organised by the Town Centre Champions, and 2 hours free parking available every day in the town centre, and all day on Sunday, there is always a reason to come into Bedford town centre.” 

Did you know
BedfordBID is one of the original 12 business improvement districts piloted across the UK in 2005. There are now more than 300 and the Government sees BIDs as the way forward for town centres.

Parking in Bedford is FREE for two hours at the Queen Street multi-storey every day (and very cost effective per hour after that). This, particularly, helps those who work in the town centre.

Bedford College has 1,000s of staff and students at the riverside campus by the town bridge and at The Bedford Sixth Form on Bromham Road - who are a vibrant source of YOUTHFUL custom for many businesses.


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