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    Bedford bucks falling footfall

    (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

    Bedford is “bucking the trend of falling footfall” after a programme ended up bringing “fresh optimism to the High Street” of the region.

    A four-year programme to spend £1.7 million improving six shop fronts and having new paving installed has “brought fresh optimism” to the town, Bedford Borough Council said.

    A council spokesman said, “Footfall on Bedford High Street has risen from approximately 200,000 in January 2020 to 265,000 in January 2024 – an increase of 32.5 per cent, and bucking the trend of falling footfall in High Streets nationally.”

    The recently completed Bedford High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSAZ) Programme saw six buildings repaired and restored, Bedford Corn Exchange upgraded to a Grade II listed building and the Shire Hall upgraded to Grade II.

    “Most importantly, it has also brought fresh optimism to the High Street by both celebrating our heritage and investing in our future,” the spokesman said.

    In December, the council said it planned to buy the former Debenhams store, which has been empty since 2021, to “futureproof” the area for years to come.

    A local businessman told BBC how he expanded his Northampton plant business by opening a store on Silver Street, Bedford, on April 6 in the building that had its outside renovated.

    “I would not have taken the premises if it didn’t have that shopfront,” he said.

    “We’ve already spoken to hundreds of customers and the majority are being warm and positive about the future of the town,” he said. “In our first week of trading we almost doubled what Northampton took in its first week. Footfall was absolutely fantastic.”

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