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PART ONE - THE VISION

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Bedford town centre is the heart of our community and should provide a range of quality shopping and entertainment for residents and visitors and a positive focus for public transport. However, the town centre needs to be far more than this - it is a place where people should live, work and have fun - for most people, the town centre defines what Bedford is.

1.2 Much has been done in recent years to improve the town centre – improvements to Harpur Street/Lime Street, Castle Mound refurbishment, the establishment of the Bedford Town Centre Company, the first ever Business Improvement District, improved car parks etc. However, compared to other centres it has lagged behind and has not been able to attract significant inward investment. In a commercial sense Bedford has stood still for perhaps as many as 50 years.

1.3 With government and regional policy focusing on Bedford’s role within the Growth Area (see glossary at Appendix I) there is a compelling need for a major step change in the delivery of an attractive, lively and commercially successful town centre which will take us into the twenty first century.

1.4 In order to provide a proper footing for the renaissance of the town centre, the Council has embarked on the preparation of this Area Action Plan which is part of the formal statutory framework for the planning of the borough. Under the new planning legislation the Local Plan will, by increment, be replaced by a series of documents. The Area Action Plan supersedes most things that the Local Plan says in relation to the town centre. The Council has also adopted a Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan which as the title suggests sets out the overall strategic direction for the borough.

CONSULTATION

1.5 The town centre has been a key priority in recent years and the Council has encouraged wide discussion about its future. There has been a series of exhibitions to raise awareness and test ideas. The Area Action Plan has also been produced following a number of consultation stages and a public examination process.

AREA ACTION PLAN

1.6 The first stage was the publication of an issues and options paper. This was published for consultation during March/April 2005 and many constructive comments were received. This was informed by and flowed from the Bedford town centre framework study which was commissioned jointly by the Borough Council and English Partnerships, the East of England Development Agency and Bedfordshire County Council. Together, your views and several studies have assisted the Borough Council to decide what its preferred option should be for the town centre. This was published and detailed comments were invited during October/November 2005. The comments received were carefully considered and these informed the submission version which was submitted to the Secretary of State in July 2006. Following an examination of this plan in April 2008, the Council received the Inspector’s Report which proposed a number of minor changes to the plan. The Area Action Plan was adopted on 8th October 2008 in line with the Inspector’s proposed changes.

1.7 Details of consultations, the issues raised, and how these were addressed at the different stages of the plan are contained in the Statement of Consultation which accompanied the submission version of this plan.

1.8 Alongside the Area Action Plan are two further documents which will interest you. The first of these is the Statement of Community Involvement. This deals with how the Council consults the public on documents like this Area Action Plan and was adopted by the Council on 17th May 2006. The second document relates specifically to the Town Centre Area Action Plan and is a Sustainability Appraisal of the Area Action Plan, testing how the plan performs against the objectives of sustainable development at each stage in the plan making process.

1.9 This document explains how the Council thinks the town centre and the remainder of the Plan area should change in the period between now and 2021. It sets out the Council's vision for the town centre and the remainder of the Plan area and turns this into a series of linked objectives and policies. It then looks at different parts of the centre, translating the vision into site specific proposals. The second half of the document deals with implementation and sets out the formal policies against which development proposals will be assessed. A detailed implementation framework is set out in Appendix C.

1.10 This document is accompanied by a number of technical documents on the themes of retailing, transport, employment, urban design and flooding. The Area Action Plan also takes account of the government’s growth plans for Bedford, Kempston and the northern Marston Vale. You can find references to all related material at Appendix A and the documents themselves are available on the Council's website www.bedford.gov.uk/planning by following the links provided. The Plan’s relationship with other plans and the regional and sub-regional strategies is set out in Appendix B.

VISION

2.1 The condition of the town centre has wide implications for the borough and for the Growth Area. The consultants’ studies which support the plan, have examined a wide range of factors and made recommendations that inform the planning of the town centre. These studies track the significant changes that the town centre has undergone, not only how the local economy has failed to keep pace and how its position has slipped in comparison with other centres, but also the many initiatives already undertaken. Any vision for the town centre must take account of all these factors and recognise that there is a real need for change.

2.2 Drawing together the findings of the analysis of existing conditions and Bedford’s enhanced role within the regional and sub-regional growth agenda, the SWOT analysis overleaf helps to guide the vision’s priorities. From this a Vision Statement has been prepared to guide planning policy and proposals.

2.3 Based on the analysis of the conditions facing the Bedford area today and the results of the extensive consultation undertaken, the following analysis of strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats has been prepared to guide the creation of the Town Centre Vision.

2.4 The vision for the Bedford Town Centre is an attempt to address the issues raised in the background studies and during consultations and as summarised in the SWOT analysis. In particular it seeks to position the area, by 2021, to cater for and benefit from the regional growth agenda and the essential promotion of the town centre’s renaissance on a substantive scale. The plan reflects where key stakeholders, including users of the town centre, identify where Bedford needs to be in thirteen years. It expresses the ambitions for the centre but also is realistic about the difficulties of delivering the scale of change required which is substantial.

2.5 At the heart of the vision is the need for the centre to declare its identity and celebrate its quality and convenience whilst acknowledging the need for growth. A number of initiatives have contributed to an apparent change of mood in the town centre and as confidence has begun to return, the centre's true potential is only now being recognised. Overwhelmingly, stakeholders see the need for and benefits of change and growth. What is required is the bringing together of the opportunities, resources and processes to deliver a step change in Bedford’s role and place within the region. The Borough Council has a key role to play in managing this change.

TABLE 1 - SWOT ANALYSIS

 

TABLE 1 - SWOT ANALYSIS

VISION OF BEDFORD TOWN CENTRE

2.6 The vision presented in this plan is not new. It echoes the aspirations of people expressed at previous exhibitions and in response to other consultations. It represents a refinement of earlier vision statements for the town centre identified in the Local Plan and the collection of other town centre strategies including the community and corporate plans, reflecting more fully the growth agenda placed upon the town by the government’s Sustainable Communities Plan.

BEDFORD TOWN CENTRE TOMORROW
By 2021, Central Bedford will feel very different to how it does today. It will be a destination of choice for customers, visitors and also those people seeking a good night out. It will have reclaimed its role as the county town within a fast growing sub-region supported by a dynamic local economy. It will have a personality of its own, celebrating its natural heritage (including its historic medieval street pattern), culture and riverside location. Importantly it will have emerged from the shadow cast by Milton Keynes and occupy a complementary position providing a distinctive offer. This will be founded upon energetic and flourishing businesses, providing value, good quality and a wide range of shopping, eating and leisure experiences. The town centre will be bustling, prosperous and safe. More people will live in the centre. More people will work in the centre. More people will visit the centre. The evening economy will be attractive to all. Residents will feel proud of their town centre.
Redevelopment will have increased the quantity and range of retail space, together with additional dwellings and leisure facilities. Bedford’s shopping will have regained its former glory with fewer cars, better air quality and the streetscene transformed by public art and al fresco eating. A campus of office buildings centred on the new station will be occupied by internationally branded companies and occupiers that have relocated from other cities justifying Bedford's growing reputation as a regional centre. The riverside will be embraced into the town centre with signature buildings, their activities spilling out on to a quayside crowded with rowing boats and canal craft en-route from the Grand Union Canal. The Castle Lane cultural quarter will be buzzing with visitors examining Plantagenet remains and the latest touring exhibitions or sipping cafe latte and watching the swans.
The Western Bypass and an elegant new bridge at Batts Ford will have improved traffic circulation, access from Bedford’s catchment will have improved and the gold standard multi-storey car parks will be both safe and busy. Park and ride bus services will have linked with the new railway and bus stations ensuring that passengers have safe and convenient journeys and easy access to all the facilities. Public transport and cycling facilities will have significantly improved and both will have played an important role in reducing congestion. Rail services to London and the Midlands will have become quicker and more frequent, even offering direct links to Paris and Brussels.

MAKING IT HAPPEN

2.7 This vision is within grasp, but Bedford must move beyond a certain passivity and complacency about change and refocus its renaissance around the change agenda itself. This will require leadership, determination, public backing and a new sense of confidence that the centre's patent strengths and opportunities outweigh its weaknesses and threats. Investment confidence is essential and has to be nurtured. Demand for retail and office space will need to be bolstered. The town centre needs re-populating to create activity and generate service/leisure demand as these are key drivers of a successful strategy. Clearly, public sector priority and particularly the Government's Growth Area Agenda will be vital in achieving this vision. Renaissance Bedford, the local delivery vehicle (see glossary at Appendix I) for the borough and the East of England Regional Assembly will also have an important role in achieving this vision. Delivery issues are dealt with in more detail in the implementation framework set out in Appendix C.

STRATEGIC OVERVIEW AND OBJECTIVES

3.1 Turning the vision into reality will require robust yet flexible guidance in the form of statutory policies and proposals. It will also take imagination and will need to be in conformity with the sub-regional and the emerging regional planning agenda.

3.2 At the issues and options stage a number of objectives were put forward and tested as part of the initial Sustainability Appraisal. These were then checked against the regional/sub-regional guidance and the Community Plan 2004 – 2010. The objectives were also reviewed in the light of the issues and options consultation held during March/April 2005 and in response to the comments received on the preferred option during October/November 2005. As a consequence, the objectives were revised and are set down below.


A MORE COMMERCIALLY ACTIVE AND COMPETITIVE RETAIL CENTRE & A MORE STRUCTURED AND DISTINCTIVE CENTRE

  • To provide a framework for the regeneration of the town centre.

  • To sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of the town centre as a whole whilst promoting reinvestment in the existing retail centre including the High Street.

  • To create a more diverse and vital mix of uses including a major increase in the town’s retail offer.

  • To achieve the successful integration of new development with the existing town centre

  • To strengthen the economy of the town centre and its role as an employment, administrative and educational centre.

A BETTER CONNECTED CENTRE

  • To improve access to the town centre through the provision of new public transport interchanges, new highway infrastructure, public transport priority when feasible, the use of park and ride facilities and improved facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, taxis and private hire vehicles. Where and when highway capacity can be increased, priority should be given to modes other than private cars.

  • To improve the number and quality of the connections within the town centre, and between the centre and the river and railway station.

A MORE ATTRACTIVE AND LIVEABLE TOWN CENTRE

  • • To achieve a significant growth in town centre living in order to enhance the vitality and viability of the centre.

  • To provide affordable housing in a managed town centre reflecting the needs of the community with the aim of securing a mixed and balanced town centre community.

  • To protect, promote and enhance Bedford’s natural and built heritage, cultural attractions and role as a tourist destination as an integral part of the strategy to regenerate the town centre

  • To achieve high quality urban design with high quality materials and finishes.

A WELL MANAGED TOWN CENTRE

  • To create a town centre which is safe, attractive and in which people will want to live, shop, work and spend their leisure time.

  • To achieve high quality public realm improvements including provision for management and maintenance.

  • To ensure that new development and other partner agencies contribute to the delivery of the Council’s strategy for the town centre as a whole, including the provision of infrastructure.

 

3.3 This section of the Area Action Plan interprets and illustrates the vision and the Plan’s objectives, and sets an overall strategic policy. It then explores the opportunities offered by each of the major development sites. These are shown at Figure 1.

FIGURE 1 - INDICATIVE STRATEGY

 

FIGURE 1 - INDICATIVE STRATEGY

 

STRATEGIC POLICY

 

To regenerate the town centre and remainder of the Plan area by:-

  • Redeveloping key sites which in turn will act as a catalyst for further investment;

  • Re-populating the town centre by including significant amounts of housing (including affordable housing);

  • Expanding the town centre and improving the town's shopping offer to create a strong and integrated retail core;

  • Using mixed use development to enhance the vitality and viability of the centre;

  • Expanding the town’s tourism potential including the provision of additional hotel accommodation;

  • Promoting office development and a new business quarter centred on the railway station;

  • Providing new infrastructure (including a new river crossing) and a mechanism to deliver these by both public and developer contributions;

  • Improving non-car accessibility including new bus and railway stations, public transport priority where capacity allows, greater choice of routes, improved pedestrian, cycle, and taxi/private hire vehicles access/parking facilities;

  • Providing higher quality and safe parking provision targeted at shoppers and visitors rather than long stay parkers;

  • Promoting better connections within the centre and between the centre, the river and the railway station;

  • Enhancing the public realm by street improvement, public art and the reduction of traffic in the High Street, St Paul’s Square and elsewhere;

  • Celebrating the town’s heritage, civic and cultural assets and promoting new cultural facilities;

  • Making the most of the river as an asset which can reinforce distinctiveness and provide economic, leisure and development opportunities.

  • Creating safe, attractive public spaces where people will want to spend their leisure time;

  • Ensuring that where appropriate, new development incorporates sustainable forms of construction, energy conservation measures and renewable energy.

 

3.4 The Borough's adopted Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan makes reference to the town centre. The Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan seeks to realise the full potential of Bedford Town Centre by directing and encouraging development to create bustling, prosperous and safe areas where people will be pleased to live, work and visit and to achieve a town centre which is a more efficient, vibrant and attractive focus for a town and hinterland which is set to grow substantially during the plan period.

3.5 This plan identifies a number of key areas of change. These are set out below and are shown on the Proposals Map.

KEY AREAS OF CHANGE

BEDFORD TOWN CENTRE WEST

4.1 The western side of the town centre offers the first real opportunity for major commercial investment to occur in the town centre for many years.

4.2 The aim is to create an attractive extension to the primary shopping area of the town centre, providing modern accommodation suited to the dynamic sections of the retail industry. This will improve customer choice increasing Bedford's offer and appeal to the shopper. The Council is encouraging the provision of a major foodstore and a department store together with unit shops of various sizes for multiples and independent retailers. It will be important to ensure that these integrate well with the rest of the centre and that the development as a whole is high quality in terms of the design, materials and finishes used.

4.3 The proposed site extends beyond the current rather scruffy bus station and includes the 5 tower blocks, the police station, Allhallows car park and shops fronting Greyfriars, Greenhill and Thurlow Streets.

4.4 This scale of development will require the provision of a new ‘state of the art’ bus station, and multi-storey car park, the building of new leisure facilities and new dwellings.

4.5 The development will need to include affordable housing to meet the community’s needs and adopt a sensitive strategic approach to the re-housing of existing tenants in the tower blocks. A number of short and longer term highway and public transport improvements will also be required.

4.6 This development will be the first really significant investment in the shopping area of the centre for more than 40 years and is well overdue. It is vital to the future of the town centre and the Council will, where necessary, resort to the use of compulsory powers of acquisition to assist site assembly. In consultation with the public, the redevelopment of the bus station received overwhelming support.

CONTENT

General retail

Department store

Food superstore

Cafes

Leisure

Residential units

Affordable dwellings

Parking spaces

ENABLING WORKS INCLUDING

Junction Improvements

Public realm improvements

Replacement bus station

Reduced bus layover space

Pedestrian/cycle links

Relocation of Police Station

RIVERSIDE SQUARE

4.7 The development of the car park at Riverside Square offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to link town and river. It is an unrivalled waterside location which is currently underused and of minimal benefit to the town. A prestige riverside mixed-use development is envisaged that will become a leisure destination and also accommodate a new river crossing and incorporate a grand public square.

4.8 The upper floors will be mainly residential bringing people back into the town centre with retail and leisure uses at ground level to create activity and interest. It needs to be a ‘signature building’ of superior design which is multi-faced and involves the remodelling of the river wall, perhaps into a series of terraces or a pontoon to encourage safe public access. A stylish foot/cycle bridge across the river should link with St Mary's Gardens.

Map of Riverside Square

4.9 There are many examples of fine waterside buildings across the country. A concept design by Quinlan Terry, commissioned by the Council, explored the effect of an approach based on classical architecture. This was displayed at town centre exhibitions and featured in the local press and gained public approval. The classical theme has been carried forward into the scheme proposed by the Council’s preferred development partner MCD.

4.10 The scheme would need to safeguard a corridor through to the riverbank sufficient for the construction of the new Batts Ford bridge (see page 26).

4.11 Policy priority within this development will focus on the provision of a grand public square for Bedford, a ‘signature’ building of superior design quality, and a stylish foot/cycle bridge. The scheme must articulate Bedford’s growing regional status and be a beacon of excellence for other riverside developments to aspire to.

Riverside Square Site

CONTENT

Residential units

Affordable dwellings

Supporting retail and leisure uses

Grand public square

Pedestrian/cycle bridge to

St Mary’s Gardens

Car parking

ENABLING WORKS INCLUDING

Riverfront improvements

Public access

Pedestrian/cycle links

Gardens

CASTLE LANE

4.12 This is to become Bedford's cultural quarter through the redevelopment of the Council’s surface car parks and integration with an improved Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum. This is an historic part of Bedford and archaeology and conservation will be a prominent feature of any scheme.

4.13 The Council proposes a mixed use redevelopment that creates a new location for town centre living bringing people back into the centre, enhances the setting of historic monuments, provides space for specialist shopping and cafes to encourage a lively street scene, live/work units and, if feasible, improvements to the Swan Hotel.

4.14 Given the site's history, significant archaeological investigations will be required and the development will feature a castle archaeological park or trail that preserves, displays and interprets the key findings of this work.

4.15 It is important that the scheme links the town centre with the river and for the development as a whole to create a pedestrian friendly atmosphere, where the vehicle penetration is kept to a minimum.

4.16 The site was the subject of a RIBA design competition and has featured heavily in town centre exhibitions. It is required that the development of this site will be to a high quality in terms of design, materials and finishes and of a height and scale to signpost the cultural quarter and stamp its renaissance on the urban fabric of Bedford.

4.17 Developers should consider the potential to incorporate additional land as part of the proposal, for instance the High Street properties next to the Swan Hotel.

CONTENT

Residential units

Supporting retail and leisure uses

Affordable dwellings

Parking spaces

Castle park or trail

Site interpretation/Archaeology Park

ENABLING WORKS INCLUDING

Integration of Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum

Pedestrian /cycle links

Traffic management improvements

Castle Lane

BEDFORD STATION

4.18 This site offers a key opportunity to achieve a major new office quarter.

4.19 It requires investment in rail infrastructure to increase the capacity of the station, to improve both its attractiveness and its connectivity to the town centre by bus, cycle and on foot and provide a public transport interchange. It envisages replacing the station concourse further south, to its original position. When this is considered with the rail land to the west of the tracks it appears to offer the possibility of direct pedestrian and bus access to the station from Queens Park and the Biddenham Loop Park and Ride site. It would also simplify the route to the main shopping areas of the town with benefits for Midland Road businesses. This would be seen as an important gain for all concerned, particularly the travelling public.

4.20 The availability of land will enable the provision of a rail/bus hub to speed the arrival/dispersal of commuters by public transport and reduce traffic congestion.

4.21 Development is required to achieve this major new office quarter as the rail industry is unlikely to be able to fund such a dramatic remodelling of the station. Accordingly the Borough Council will actively support Network Rail in achieving a comprehensive commercial redevelopment of the block of property including the rail lands and premises to the south of the station forecourt fronting Ashburnham Road and the DIY store. In the context of the Growth Area Agenda, government relocation plans and the future economic vitality of Bedford, there is an urgent need to identify good quality, well connected and centrally located office development sites. When combined with enhanced transport links this will help Bedford to play a key role within the Cambridge-Oxford Arc.

4.22 A masterplanning exercise has been commissioned to help drive this proposal forward. This will take technical and commercial considerations into account and generate an outline scheme likely to be acceptable to stakeholders including the rail industry. The exercise may also identify the potential for the site to extend to the south of Ford End Road.

CONTENT

Major office development

Car parking

New station concourse and hub

Residential units

Affordable dwellings

ENABLING WORKS INCLUDING

Bus connection from the west including new pedestrian/cycle bridge.

KINGSWAY QUARTER

4.23 As the southern gateway to a regenerated town centre, Kingsway and the land formed by Cauldwell Street, St John's Street and the Bedford-Bletchley railway line to the west, has the potential to become established as an important office, administrative and residential quarter. Currently it is characterised by a hotchpotch of buildings and uses including extensive areas of surface car parking. This is unattractive and represents a sub-optimal use of land.

4.24 Proposals have come forward for the former British Telecom site which is seen as a key area of change. A scheme providing a suitable mix of residential (including affordable housing) and office space combined with a face lift of the tower and the adjoining building has been encouraged.

4.25 The remainder of the area would benefit from a comprehensive approach to regeneration through both new development and redevelopment opportunities. The aim should be to achieve a more effective use of land, a more cohesive pattern of development, and create more continuous frontages. In addition, there is scope to increase the employment capacity of the Plan area and link with County Hall and Bedford College. The Council will encourage investment by preparing a development brief for this area.

CONTENT

Office development

Residential units

Affordable dwellings

Pedestrian/cycle links

Kingsway Quarter

LIME STREET

4.26 A section of the Lime Street block has scope for redevelopment providing new offices, urban living space, retail and perhaps leisure uses taking advantage of the recent street improvements. This could take the form of a courtyard with new buildings facing onto Harpur and Lime Streets creating an inner area of calm that can be enjoyed by occupiers. Any access arrangements will need to safeguard the pedestrian nature of the street during core shopping hours.

CONTENT

Mixed use development

Lime Street

PROGRESS FORD

4.27 As a car sales business this site is currently under-used given its town centre location. Similar businesses have relocated in recent years and this suggests that the site has redevelopment potential. Therefore it is proposed for a frontage residential redevelopment bringing people back into the town centre. The existing forecourt and buildings make inefficient use of the site and do not contribute positively to the townscape. A courtyard style development with internal private open space may well be suitable.

4.28 This site has long associations with the motor vehicle and maintaining these connections (including the town’s historical link with car production) could be a theme for the development. Bringing this up to date, the potential exists to create an exemplar development equipped perhaps as a design feature with charging bays for electric cars.

CONTENT

Residential units

Affordable dwellings

Progress Ford

BEDFORD HIGH STREET

4.29 The future vitality and viability of the town centre depends as much upon the success of existing retail premises as it does on the completion of the Bedford Town Centre West redevelopment. The town centre retail offer needs lifting across the board and it is important that property owners use this opportunity to modernise their holdings.

4.30 Retail development on the western edge of the town centre may have a negative impact on High Street shops and specific action is required to support this area and encourage new businesses targeted perhaps at youth culture.

4.31 The illustrations of Camden Town show how a certain approach to facade treatment (preserving architectural features) and the re-introduction of colourful awnings can create a new and positive retail atmosphere. Public art could be used to radically alter the character and appeal of the High Street.

Camden Town

4.32 The potential to reduce traffic levels in the High Street will substantially improve environmental conditions and provide the space for uses to spill out into the street. De-trafficking brings with it the opportunity to enhance facilities for public transport, taxis and private hire vehicles. It also provides potential in the long term to create a north-south cycle link.

4.33 In order to explore the options for the High Street, the Council will prepare a strategy with key stakeholders.

Bedford High Street

ST MARY'S QUARTER

4.34 The St. Mary’s Quarter lies on the south bank of the river and comprises St. Mary’s Gardens, the administrative complex of County Hall and the campus of Bedford College. The latter two areas play an important role in enhancing the vitality and viability of the town centre as well as being major employers in the town.

4.35 The introduction of the new river crossings will open up this area and create new and enhanced pedestrian/cycle and vehicular links. As a result it will play a more important role as a key gateway into the town centre.

4.36 At the present time, the college buildings turn their back on the river frontage and this in turn creates a poor interface between the college and St Mary’s Gardens. This is in sharp contrast to the buildings on the northern bank. Redevelopment and new infill will bring about the opportunity to re-orientate buildings to create a more public face to the St Mary’s gardens and the river corridor.

St. Mary’s Quarter

SHIRE HALL AND BANK BUILDING SITE

4.37 This site includes the Shire Hall which was completed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1881, several listed buildings on the south side of St Paul’s Square and the vacant Bank Building site which is an important gateway location on the southern approach to the town centre. The listed buildings have been empty for many years and need to be brought back into use in order to secure their future.

4.38 There is scope to expand the existing operation of the courts in order to create a regional justice centre. This will also help to secure the future of the Shire Hall building.

4.39 Any scheme will need to be sensitively designed having regard to the heritage issues, the historic fabric and the prominence of the site. It is important that any development fronts on to St Paul’s Square, High Street and the river frontage.

Shire Hall and Bank Building Site

TRANSPORTATION AND HIGHWAYS

5.1 Within an overall strategy of realising greater network efficiency, managing demand and achieving higher levels of modal shift to public transport, issues concerning congestion, ease of interchange, air quality and accessibility will influence the degree to which renaissance can be achieved. The strategy of the Town Centre Area Action Plan attempts to strike the right balance between road based provision and the alternatives offered by public transport, walking and cycling. Key elements include:

HIGHWAY NETWORK ISSUES

  • Improvements to the existing network including junction improvements.

  • Where feasible, junction improvements should give priority to non-private car modes.

  • Provision of a new river crossing at Batts Ford post 2011. The provision of the new river crossing will be pursued as an integral part of a major bid through the Local Transport Plan (LTP) process. This has been identified as a ‘Priority Major Scheme’ in the County Council’s LTP2 submission.

  • De-trafficking of St. Paul’s Square North and the High Street in the long term.

SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT OPTIONS

  • New bus and rail stations with enhanced interchange facilities.

  • Where feasible, give roadspace over to public transport priority.

  • Provision of re-routed bus ‘loops’ to improve circulation and accessibility.

  • Expansion of park and ride with facilities in each quadrant of the town in order to reduce congestion within the town centre.

  • Promote the greater use of cycling with improved facilities (including parking) and new east-west and north-south routes through the centre in the long term.

  • Maximising walking routes with the provision of new pedestrian/cycling crossings over the river.

PARKING

  • Managing parking demand through a pricing policy which favours short stay shopper users.

  • Improved ‘gold standard’ car parking facilities.

5.2 Based on this and background studies, this Area Action Plan sets out a number of transport proposals designed to address these issues. The transport implications of individual developments will be assessed both in terms of their overall impact and their immediate connections with the network when planning applications are submitted.

BUS SERVICES

5.3 Bus services need improving to provide better accessibility and integration. The existing bus station is unattractive and the links to the railway station are poor and bus priority access within the radial routes to the town centre is limited and inadequate. To address these issues the Area Action Plan aims to:-

  • improve overall accessibility to local bus services by investigating alternative routeing in the central area, reviewing picking up/set down points and the use of through ticketing and real-time information;

  • replace the bus station with a new ‘state of the art’ designed facility;

  • relocate bus layover facilities to other locations;

  • make improvements at the railway station to provide a high quality interchange and environment for bus and rail passengers;

  • develop a network of bus priority routes on key approach corridors linked with park and ride facilities where practical;

  • adopt a Quality Bus Partnership approach on key routes to deliver a step change in the bus offer;

  • build on the pilot scheme to introduce real time information on routes into the town;

  • continue pursuing a programme of bus stop improvements including small bus interchanges in proximity to retail centres;

  • Improve cycle/bus interchange facilities where practicable.

HIGHWAYS

5.4 Studies have shown that the highway network in and around the town centre is not particularly robust and although congestion is mostly a peak hour phenomenon, any problems on the network can quickly cause congestion at any time of the day. Furthermore the year on year growth of car travel is increasing the peak periods when congestion is at its worst as well as increasing traffic volumes in the off peak periods. Town centre renaissance will generate increased traffic flows, which will require improvements to the highway network at various key junctions around the town centre. These increased flows coupled with general traffic increases will require a third river crossing to the town centre to be built. However the benefits that will be derived from highway improvements could be compromised by the need to incorporate bus priority measures to improve the public transport alternative offer to car travel.

5.5 Transport assessments will be required to accompany planning applications for development of a significant scale. These may indicate that certain highway/public transport improvements are required if the development is to be implemented.

5.6 It is likely that a number of highway improvements, particularly junction improvements, will be necessary as development proceeds. The Prebend Street relief road scheme is currently safeguarded. This links Prebend Street with the Ashburnham Road/Midland Road junction. This would provide a significant improvement to the highway network and the opportunity to separate residential properties from existing traffic corridors.

5.7 The Western Bypass will reduce the impact of traffic in the town centre, although until the northern section (A428 to A6) is built its full potential cannot be realised. In any case this will not avoid the need for significant highway network improvements, including a third river crossing.

5.8 A new river crossing at Batts Ford will be required to incorporate more robust highway and public transport networks that offer improved route choice. This will be pursued as an integral part of a major bid through the Local Transport Plan (LTP) process. The establishment of three river crossings make it possible to strengthen and simplify bus routeing and improve accessibility and priority for public transport into the town centre.

PROPOSALS INCLUDE

Junction improvements at:

2006-2011

High Street/Embankment

Midland Road/Prebend Street/Ford End Road

Cauldwell Street/St Mary’s Street and Ampthill Road/London Road/ Kingsway

Horne Lane/River Street

Post 2011

A new river crossing at Batts Ford connecting to River Street and Kingsway

Kingsway/Cauldwell Street and River Street/Horne Lane

Horne Lane, River Street and Kingsway - reversion to twoway operation;

Horne Lane and St Paul’s Square - introduction of an access restriction point (for eastbound traffic)

Prebend Street relief road

By 2016

Improvements may also be required to the following junctions:-

Bromham Road/Ashburnham Road (further enhancement over and above local authority scheme in the pipeline)

High Street/Dame Alice Street

Revised road layouts in the vicinity of the Bus Station Redevelopment Proposal.

Note precise timing and requirements will be assessed through further studies and travel assessments.

PEDESTRIAN AND CYCLING IMPROVEMENTS

5.9 Pedestrian links into and within the town centre will continue to be a priority and are important not only to improve accessibility but also to ensure that new development integrates well with existing areas within the core. Walking routes should be attractive with appropriate crossing facilities. Further pedestrian/cycle bridges will be provided in association with development as part of the ‘Bedford: A Town of Beautiful Bridges’ initiative.

5.10 Much of this will be achieved through the design of the new development, but equally, the quality of the public realm must undergo further upgrading. In this regard, environmental works to the north side of St Paul's Square will help extend the pedestrian friendly area and a reduction of traffic in the High Street would improve air quality and encourage retail re-investment. Both of these detrafficked areas will also be available for cycle use. Radial routes into the town centre will also need upgrading, particularly to the south of the river from the London Road area.

5.11 The majority of Bedford’s cycle routes converge on the town centre and there is a need to encourage this mode of transport, while avoiding potential conflict with pedestrians. The plan proposes new north-south and east-west cycle routes. In all proposals affecting development of the public realm, the needs of cyclists will be taken into account including the provision of secure cycle storage. There is potential to locate improved cycle parking facilities at the key ‘gateways’ into the primary shopping area. These are shown on Figure 4. This does not exclude the provision of cycle parking elsewhere within the centre.

5.12 Developer contributions will be sought towards improved pedestrian and cycle facilities. See policy TC21.

TAXIS AND PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLES

5.13 Taxis and private hire vehicles provide an important role in the function of the town centre, its evening economy and at transport interchanges.

PUBLIC CAR PARKING

5.14 The redevelopment of the key areas of change is not expected to reduce existing public off-street spaces for shoppers and visitors to the town centre. The existing provision of 3,928 spaces will increase by about 120 spaces although this depends on the final level of provision at the Bedford Station Quarter. It is anticipated that any net loss of parking spaces will however be compensated by greater use of existing facilities.

5.15 Whilst it is anticipated that Allhallows multi-storey car park will be re-provided with a greater capacity as part of the Bedford Town Centre West proposal, surface parking will be lost following the redevelopment of the Riverside Square and Castle Lane sites. Details of existing and future provision are set out in Appendix G.

5.16 An appropriate balance has to be struck and the proposals related to these sites together with peripheral park and ride schemes are expected to provide in the order of 5,779 off street spaces available to town centre users. Within the town centre pricing policy will continue to discourage long stay parking. Opening times and tariffs will be geared to assist in demand management, encourage modal shift and shopper car parking. It is important however to recognise that there needs to be sufficient parking within the town centre to maintain its attractiveness and commercial viability.

5.17 Retail and leisure developments in the town centre will need to contribute to the cost of providing off-street public car parking spaces.

5.18 Priority will continue to be given to bringing all public car parks up to the ‘gold standard’ to ensure attractive, well used and safe facilities.

PROPOSALS INCLUDE

Bedford Town Centre West: circa 980 spaces (of which 200 will be for residents)*

Elstow Park and Ride 480 spaces

Additional park and ride facilities at Biddenham Loop, Land north of Bromham Road, Biddenham and Cardington Cross.

ENABLING DEVELOPMENT

All retail and leisure schemes

* Provisional figure– to be determined at planning application stage.

 

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