Out of town development could help town centre traders with battle plan to safeguard future

A £1.3 million plan to help struggling Bideford town centre traders has been given a boost by a proposed new out-of-town development.

Shopkeepers who have reported one of their most difficult trading periods are facing the prospect of a major expansion of the Atlantic Village shopping centre on the outskirts of the town.

But with the development comes the promise of a £500,000 contribution towards Bideford Chamber of Commerce’s draft Vision and Action Plan as part of the planning agreement.

The plan, which aims to increase footfall and spending in the town all year around, has just been endorsed by Torridge District Council as a guiding document for the improvement of the town centre over the next five years. Support has also been given by Bideford Town Council.

Chamber president Jane Maynard said the Atlantic Village plan could be a benefit, by keeping people in the town rather than travelling to other shopping destinations.

The expansion would provide large outlets that could not be contained in the town centre, she said.

The Chamber has also requested that there would not be any additional food or convenience outlets, so shoppers would be able to come into town for these facilities.

There is also a plan to set up a Bideford Shop to promote the town within the Atlantic Village.

The district council has also backed a commitment of £7,500 from “planning gain” money associated with the development of the town’s Asda store towards a branding and marketing exercise for the town centre.

The Bideford Chamber of Commerce plan calls for a marketing strategy for the area as a whole, including Northam, Westward Ho!, Appledore and Instow, together with a destination name, and also for closer links with the Atlantic Village outlet.

It highlights the need to maximise Bideford’s unique selling points and include these in any marketing strategy; to investigate incentives to attract specific retailers into town; to establish an events programme; and form a committee with a budget to deliver event management. The plan will also examine the best site for a tourist information centre.

Traders would like to see improvements to public areas in the town and a costing for pedestrianisation of part of the Quay.

Transport, parking and signage are also seen as important factors and the action plan calls for the costing of a road train linking the town centre with out-of-centre parking sites. It also explores the possibility of park and ride or better transport links with Atlantic Village and looks at short term and free car parking possibilities as well as an investment in clear signage.

Chamber president Jane Maynard welcomed the involvement of traders: “The more people who come on board, the more successful we will be.

“We really want the town centre to come together and make this work. It is an exciting opportunity for Bideford that is unlikely to come along again and we really must make the most of it.”