Bedford townscape heritage initiative

Bedford High Street has seen the fruits of significant investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Bedford Borough Council and Bedford BID, with the restoration of 16 properties on High Street, as part of the HLF's nationwide Townscape Heritage Initiative ('THI'). The grant and public funding amounted to a total of £1.95 million and generated private sector contributions from landlords and owners of the businesses, bringing the total investment amount to over £5m.

Townscape Heritage Initiative achievements

  • 16 properties have been restored
  • A total project value of over £5 million (£5,032,764), with a total private sector investment of over £3.08 million secured from owners and tenants (over £2 million more than anticipated)
  • 33,999 sq ft of vacant floorspace has been brought back into use (over 10,500 sq ft more than originally anticipated)
  • 36 new residential dwellings, 6 new businesses have been created and 2 established independent local businesses attracted to High Street to fill 3 vacant units
  • Over 130 different Learning, Education and Training events have been held, resulting in 800 people being reached with:  
    • Over 390 students and young people and over 300 businesses receiving information, training or work experience
    • 50 contractors undertaking formal training in addition to over 40 college lecturers, council officers, commercial agents,  developers etc.
  • High Street’s image and profile has improved with businesses choosing to either establish themselves there or relocate from elsewhere in the town
  • Stimulating further private sector investment improvements to buildings (ripple effect)
  • Generating a renewed focus on High Street as an important part of the town centre’s future.

The buildings

The main aim is to ensure the long term preservation of the historic Bedford High Street area. It focuses on ‘whole building’ schemes, with work on properties to include:

  • Structural repairs
  • Restoration of traditional shopfronts
  • Reinstatement of lost architectural details
  • Bringing upper floors back into productive use

Learning, education and training

The project delivered an extensive learning, education and training programme alongside the physical building works. This will provide a legacy of increased heritage skills, historic knowledge and appreciation in the local area. The programme included heritage interpretation, events, educational and community activities, as well as heritage construction and maintenance skills for owners, tenants, contractors, students and the general public and a new NVQ Heritage Construction Skills course, now available at Bedford College. 

Take the High Street Project QR code tour.

Further initiatives

Complementary physical works on High Street, funded by the Council alone, include improvements to Luddington’s Passage (between 49 – 51 High Street) and 'Passage 101', between 99 – 101 High Street. The artwork in both passageways was conceived and realised by Bedford College HND Fine Art student, Michelle Crowther.

The Council is also looking into detrafficking options on High Street, as part of a longer term strategy to improve the pedestrian environment. 

Grant rates

Funding was available through grants offered to landlords and tenants along High Street. The grant rates were set at 70% for repairs and 80% for reinstatement works. Rates for reuse of vacant floor space varied, depending on the value of the property once its empty space had been brought back into viable economic use. There was a maximum grant cap of £200,000 per property.