Towns go shopping after bid success

MBCH-05-08-13- Sandy scene setters.''Market Square. ENGPNL00120130508150257
MBCH-05-08-13- Sandy scene setters.''Market Square. ENGPNL00120130508150257

New car parks, a mosaic trail and refurbished pavements and toilets are just some of the projects which could be getting the go-ahead in Chronicle country.

Three towns in the area have been successful in the first phase of competing for cash to regenerate market towns in Bedfordshire.

Potton, Sandy and Shefford have all been told they now need to finalise the projects before presenting them to Central Beds Council for final approval.

All the successful bids will have to be match funded by the individual councils.

Sandy has been told £355K of its £555k bid has made it through the first round of Central Beds Council’s Market Town Regeneration Fund.

Town clerk Chris Robson said the resurfacing of pavements and signage around the Market Square had been potentially accepted along with a project for a series of mosaic trails in Sandy, Potton and Biggleswade.

“We now need to work on clarifying some questions and the practicalities of it,” he said.

In Potton, the council has been told it could get £97,600. It had originally asked for £470k.

Its main project is to increase the size of the car park at Henry Smith Playing Fields to around double its size to cater for shoppers, employees in the town and visitors but there are also plans to enhance the Market Square and make the town more appealing.

More work will now be carried out on costings and any works will have to be completed within two years.

Local Potton councillor Adam Zerny said: “This is fantastic news for Potton which will see a much smarter Market Square in the coming months. Hats off to Andy Gibb, Roger Jordan and the other Potton Town Councillors who put so much time and effort in to make this bid work.”

Shefford does not yet know how much of its bid has been successful but its main priority is the public toilets in the town.

Shefford Council chairman Cllr Paul Makin said refurbishments of the toilets would be around £30k and the council had also bid for money for street furniture such as flower baskets, recycling bins and direction signs.

Eight local projects designed to enhance market towns are in line to receive the funding through a Central Bedfordshire Council initiative that will generate over £7million of investment across the area.

The Market Town Regeneration Fund was launched by the council in October with the aim of making market towns more vibrant and even better places to visit, live and do business in. Town councils were invited to bid for a share of the £4million fund which is available for two years to support locally developed improvement projects on a match-funded basis.

Eleven submissions were received from town councils with eight projects going forward. The eight projects would see £2.46million being allocated from the Market Towns Regeneration Fund and the town councils matching this with a further £2.7million of their own investment.

As seven bids of the original 11 bids included ambitions to improve town centre shop fronts, Central Bedfordshire Council is planning to allocate £1million of the Market Town Regeneration Fund for projects that will improve the high streets. This will tackle vacant units and shop front improvements across the whole of the area.

The Council’s Executive on June 7 will give final funding approval for the projects. Between now and then, council officers will check and analyse each of the eight successful town council bids in more detail and individual business cases will be developed for each bid.

Once the bids are approved the town councils and Central Bedfordshire Council will work in partnership to deliver the projects by early 2018.

Jason Longhurst, Director of Regeneration and Business, said: “Market towns are at the heart of local communities and the Market Towns Regeneration Fund fits with the council’s many other programmes that make Central Bedfordshire a great place to live and work. We want our town centres and high streets to remain vibrant and withstand ongoing economic challenges, so our Market Town Regeneration Fund is designed to support town centres in the absence of national funding schemes.

“I’m delighted that we’ve had such a positive response from our town council partners and we look forward to working with them together with local businesses and communities to crystallise their thinking and ultimately help realise local ambitions for our market towns.”