Improving visitor experience, boosting jobs and increasing footfall to shops and business are some of the key factors behind a new Commercial Plan for the centre of Biggleswade, which has been commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council as a response to the challenges of fast growth in the town.
The Biggleswade Joint Area Committee, which is comprised of members from the Council, Biggleswade Town Council and traders, has asked for the Plan in response to the increasing competition faced from online shopping and out-of-town retail parks – though this is not only in Biggleswade but all town centres, generally, across the UK.
With the development of Kings Reach to the east, the expansion of retail at London Road Retail Park and the new jobs being created at Stratton Business Park the town is in a period of change. Recognising this, the Council is seeking to maximise these opportunities while addressing the challenges of an increasing population, such as providing the necessary capacity in local schools.
The Commercial Plan is part of ensuring the benefits of growth are sustainable and felt by all. It will help develop and deliver activities that will improve the overall health of the town centre and this will mean a better town centre experience, which will impact positively on footfall to local businesses and jobs.
Through a competitive bidding process, the Council has contracted the Mosaic Partnership – a consultancy with specialist knowledge and expertise in relation to the development of sustainable and modern town centres – to help it develop the Commercial Plan. This work will be completed over the next several weeks and the Mosaics Partnership will be carrying out a number of face-to-face surveys in the town centre to help inform the resulting Plan.
The Council’s approach to this work is based on investing time, effort and money in working with local businesses to improve the town centre and, as a consequence, the trading environment. An example of this ethos is the Market Town Regeneration Fund which is providing significant funding across Central Bedfordshire for the improvement its town centres.
Jason Longhurst, Central Bedfordshire Council Director for Regeneration and Business, said: “We recognise that all town centres need to adapt and diversify so that, rather than compete with new and emerging shopping opportunities, such as online retail, they can offer something different that consumers can’t get any where else.
“Biggleswade has seen the recent redevelopment of the London Road Retail Park which contains a number of major retailers. While this represents a trend we have seen in several areas of Central Bedfordshire, where these companies now require greater floorspace that can be found on high streets, we have a very clear town centre first approach. This is about being responsive to the challenges our town centres face, working with the business and the community to identify solutions and then investing time and money to help ensure their sustainability.
“This Commercial Plan project fits in with our broader programme of investment and regeneration within our market towns and their town centres. As part of our Market Town Regeneration Fund, we are delivering the High Street Improvement Scheme, which offers grants to town centre traders for the design and installation of new shop fronts. Over £1million of funding has been provided across the Council area for this purpose in our key market towns.”
In Biggleswade, one trader that will benefit from the High Street Improvement Scheme is the Surfin Café, which will develop a new shop front and brand during this summer to significantly improve the appearance and setting of the business, plus the surrounding Market Square.
Now is the chance to inform this work, so town centre businesses interested in contributing to the Commercial Plan can contact the Council’s Project Manager Sam Caldbeck by email to Samuel.firstname.lastname@example.org