‘Regeneration project will give a long-term boost to our town centre’

Feb 03, 2021

Plans for the new-look High Street in Bedford.

WORK is due to start this month on a high-quality regeneration makeover of Bedford’s High Street.

Through the Transporting Bedford project, the road will become one lane only for traffic permanently, creating more space for shoppers and pedestrians.

High Street has been one lane for several months, with temporary barriers in place to help people social distance during the coronavirus pandemic. The new, permanent scheme will see a different road layout with wider pavements on both sides of the road. 

The improvements are expected to be complete by the end of November 2021.

The scheme will take place 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.

The length of the road from St Peter’s Street to Mill Street will be closed from February until July. When it reopens, the southern half of the street down to the Embankment will close. Signed diversions will be in place.

Permanent loading and short-term parking bays will be installed to help shops along the High Street function. To attract shoppers, wider pavements will be created   and the 20mph speed limit will be enforced by average speed cameras.

Cllr Henry Vann, portfolio holder for town centres at Bedford Borough Council, 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.”

Samantha Laycock, chair of Bedford BID

The improvement project has been welcomed by town centre businesses through the Love Bedford Business Improvement District.

Its chair Samantha Laycock said: “The BedfordBID welcome this largest ever investment in Bedford’s roads continuing to demonstrate the commitment being shown in the town adding 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.”

The project is part of Transporting Bedford, a £18 million project to tackle congestion hotspots in Bedford, funded by Bedford Borough Council with £15.5 million funding from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership through the Local Growth Fund.

It has also helped secure an additional £1.76 million worth of investment from Historic England, backed by SEMLEP and Bedford BID, which will help to improve shop fronts and bring unused spaces back into use.

Judith Barker, director of programmes and governance at SEMLEP, said: “During this time it is particularly important that we keep supporting and investing in our town centres, our infrastructure and in our businesses. We are pleased to see works commence in the High Street which will bring improvements to the town centre.”

Cllr Vann said: “By taking non-stopping traffic out of town and encouraging motorists that just use the High Street as a through route to go another way, the High Street will become a nicer place to spend time, while improvements to well-known congestion hotspots via the Transporting Bedford project are helping to ease congestion through our town.

“We are continuing to work with businesses down the High Street to minimise the impact on them as much as we can and we thank everyone for their continued support for local businesses, and their patience and understanding as we carry out these exciting works for the future of our High Street.”

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