Virtually every household and business has struggled since 2020, and this is as true for Biggleswade, as anywhere else. Therefore, we are pleased to hear that there is money coming to the area from the Welcome Back Fund.
This money is to support High Street businesses who have struggled since the pandemic, and it looks as though £32,000 will be offered to local firms. It has been announced that a bid of this amount, submitted by the local council, has been approved by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The town council's place shaping manager Simon Newton said; “Our application was to establish a loyalty scheme within the town centre and to leaflet drop all businesses in and around Biggleswade, as well as residential areas. And it was to provide a more supportive scheme around the Buy Biggleswade campaign, which was started nearly a year ago. The events which could be run within the town centre will promote the local economy and businesses. This could be food and drink events, or family focused.”
A big event is happening in August
One event next month will be a partnership between the town council and the new Biggleswade Business Consortium, according to Mr Newton.
In the middle of August, there will be an event where the town council and the Biggleswade Business Consortium partners up. Mr Newton said; “This is culminating in the event, Sunday on the Square, which is on August 15th, from 10am to 4pm, using the whole of Market Place. It's set around a village fete, and billed as the biggest Biggleswade has ever seen. If this goes well, we'll do a second one later in the year and there's a chance it could become an annual event.”
There is likely to be a lot of interest in the local business start-up, and there is no denying the way people work, and how workers engage with town centres, has changed. This is also an issue that Mr Newton discussed, saying; “We're looking at businesses being run from home to attend the Charter Market to trial their line of work in the town centre. This is a cheaper option for them because they wouldn't have the higher overheads of bricks and mortar. We're looking at seasonal lighting around the market place to encourage the night time economy, as well as a nicer atmosphere. It's just commercial at present because the Welcome Back Fund is about local businesses.”
Not everyone is supportive of the scheme
While there is likely to be support for new ventures, and measures which aim to support the local community, not everyone is fully behind the scheme.
The chair of the committee, Conservative Biggleswade South councillor Mark Foster, said; “What sort of ratio has been spent on one thing against another, such as the rough spend on leaflets? We've got £32,000 to spend. What's the real benefit to traders and to the town?”
In response, the town clerk Peter Tarrant, said; “If you look at the criteria for the Welcome Back Fund, the vast proportion of the sums involved relate to the two elements which are quite clear. One is business awareness to ensure the reopening of local economies and the other is temporary public realm changes to ensure this process can be managed successfully.”
Town councillor Hazel Ramsay said: “Currently the market is much improved. I've had comments back from people saying how much better it now is, so that's really great. I'm looking forward to August 15 because it's a chance for us to make more noise and a bigger splash about who we are and what we are. Shoppers could have market square as their first choice rather than a fallback option, and won't have to go to other places and chain stores. I'm particularly pleased that local enterprises are going to have some sort of stall because it's the small acorns from which businesses grow. Everyone can come and get something unique, different and a bit special, and they can do it on Biggleswade market.”
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