Bedford town centre urgently requires a ‘vision for regeneration’ following a 4.82% reduction in footfall last year.
Figures obtained by Conservative Cllr Gianni Carofano show that footfall fell to 14m in 2018 compared with 14.7m in 2017. The 2018 figure is the lowest since 2014 despite Bedford Borough’s population growing by 3.6% between 2014 – 2017, underlining the challenge posed by online and out of town retailing.
Cllr Carofano is now calling on the Council to engage with and listen to businesses and residents in order to submit a ‘compelling’ bid for investment to the Government’s new £675m Future High Streets Fund. He said:
‘Mayor Hodgson has failed to produce a coherent strategy for Bedford town centre. He told us that Riverside North would bring in 500k visitors but footfall actually reduced by 710k in 2018 compared with 2017.
‘It is time to get behind our businesses which have been under real pressure from the increasing proportion of online sales and competition from out of town retail sites. The Government is inviting bids for its £675m Future High Street Fund and the Council needs to put together a compelling case for investment. This can only be achieved if we actually engage with residents and businesses to understand properly the issues facing our town.
‘We need to offer an experience to bring people back into Bedford. There should be more of a focus on leisure by exploring activities such as bowling and trampolining for children and teenagers. The Council should also provide a clean and safe environment with a zero tolerance crack-down on anti-social behaviour and street drinking which has blighted some areas such as Midland Road.
‘Bedford town centre has a very positive future but it will only reach its potential if we work with residents and businesses to produce a vision for regeneration.’