It appears that Bedford has been hit harder than other towns when it comes to our town centre shopping experience. We know that the rise of online shopping, recently accelerated by the pandemic, has made a significant impact but Bedford has struggled. During almost 14 years in power, the current Mayor has continuously failed to address Bedford’s decline. At the same time our total population for the borough has increased far more than our neighbouring towns *.
Bedford should be bustling! The council’s own figures**, between June 2017 and June 2022 say that we have lost 456,582 visits per month to the town centre. The current Mayor has continuously failed to address this town centre issue which started long before the pandemic and is continuing. Where are the real plans of what to do? To quote the council report again**: “the decline of traditional retail has disproportionately affected Bedford town centre with residents and visitors having very little reason to travel [there]”.
People obviously want to live in Bedford. We have some really lovely shops and restaurants. I believe we can make our town centre a thriving community hub again it just needs some vision and action.
It’s time for a change - if we don’t change what we are doing then nothing will change.
* Government 2021 Census data says that Bedford Borough’s population is increasing. At 17.7% our ten-year population growth is proportionately more than our peers. Milton Keynes grew by 15.3% and Luton by 10.8%.
** Figures quoted are derived from ‘Bedford Towns Fund - St Paul’s Square Public Realm Project Business Case Bedford Borough Council July 2022’