Early stages of design brief for Biggleswade's "scruffy" Market Square set to be discussed

Town council officers will meet with urban designers
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Biggleswade’s “scruffy” Market Square should have its dominance by motor vehicles reduced with fewer parking spaces, a meeting heard.

But the town council’s future blueprint for the area needs to avoid harming local businesses and damaging economic development, councillors were warned.

The local authority is in the earliest stages of “influencing the regeneration of the town centre to encourage, and support high quality leisure and retail experiences”, according to a report to the council.

Biggleswade's Market Square. Photo: Google Maps Street ViewBiggleswade's Market Square. Photo: Google Maps Street View
Biggleswade's Market Square. Photo: Google Maps Street View

It also aims “to improve the Market Square for the Biggleswade market and outdoor events to encourage visits to the town centre”, said the report. “Costings have still to be estimated for the project.”

Mayor Mark Foster, who chairs the meeting, told town councillors: “The whole point of this is to have a vision brief we can put out to tender.

“It’s not the finished article, but it gives us something to work with and send out,” he said.

The review would include “what happens if and when bus exit lanes can close, the future of Century House, and the town centre layout”, added the report.

Three informal working group meetings were held “to produce a high-level brief reflecting a vision for the future of Market Square”, which is owned by Central Bedfordshire Council.

“Once agreed by the town council, officers would contact urban designers through a tender exercise or by directly sourcing quotes.

“After an urban designer is appointed, it would produce several illustrations to remodel Market Square and the wider area before finalising a preferred design.”

Town councillor David Albone suggested “something indicating reduced parking and dominance of the motor vehicle in Market Square”.

Councillor Madeline Russell said: “I understand that sentiment, but we tried to keep this brief as wide as possible.

“This is simply a brief for urban designers to quote to do the work for us. We talked in the working group about how many parking spaces we could lose.

“Our current policy is to provide them elsewhere to avoid an overall reduction. We also have to worry about the businesses in the town centre, as well as the amenity of the Market Square.

“I propose we go ahead with this. We want to hold at least two workshops with councillors before we come up with a final vision. This is very much a first step.”

Deputy mayor Mark Knight explained: “I think our town centre has become scruffy and desperately needs some investment.

“It’s owned by CBC, but I believe this council needs to get on the front foot to develop a vision and some high level designs. That’ll put us in a much better place to work with Central Beds as it develops designs.

“It’s not a reflection of final policy. We should strive to make it as neutral as possible, allowing professionals to do some of the analysis around traffic flow, and the fine balance between pedestrianisation and vehicles.

“We expect to meet a number of times with the urban planners.”

Councillors unanimously agreed a recommendation for officers to obtain quotes from design firms.