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Labour Councillors launch Saxon Centre Kempston petition

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Labour Councillors in Kempston have begun collecting signatures on a petition to Bedford Borough Council calling for immediate action to refurbish the Saxon Centre.

Despite being the main shopping area in Kempston with a long-established supermarket and numerous other shops, the busy area is in a bad state. Many promises have been made in recent years, but the Saxon Centre is still undeveloped and there has been no further progress.

Kempston Town Councillor James Valentine, who is leading the campaign, said:

“Kempston residents are fed up with the appearance of this area, and have health & safety concerns too. There are broken paving slabs, derelict buildings, and insufficient lighting. On rainy days poor drainage leads to deep puddles everywhere and the whole area has an air of general neglect. It lacks any of the features and amenities that a main shopping centre might expect and is the "poor relation" of Bedford town centre which has attracted heavy investment over the years.”

Councillor Mohammed Nawaz added: “We’d also like to hear what amenities people would like to have in the area – we want to keep the successful market on Thursdays but what else would people like to see here?”

The petition attracted more than 200 signatures on the first week Labour councillors campaigned in the area, with other Kempston Town & Borough Councillors collecting signatures from their own wards. Councillor James Valentine presented the petition to Bedford Borough Full Council on 24 February and the subject will be debated at the subsequent Full Council Meeting on 23rd March 2016.

Cllr Valentine stated: “The number of people who have signed the petition in such a short space of time shows the strength of feeling about this. If you’d like to add your name you can also sign it online.”

In presenting the petition at Full Council, Cllr James Valentine said, "This petition is on behalf of Kempston Labour Party and it's about the poor condition of Kempston's main shopping area, the Saxon Centre. The wording is as follows:

"Kempston's Saxon Centre is in a bad state. It suffers from broken paving, derelict buildings, insufficient lighting, poor drainage and general neglect. It lacks any of the features and amenities that a main shopping centre might expect and is the "poor relation" of Bedford town centre which has attracted heavy investment over the years.

Kempston Labour Party is extremely disappointed that in spite of many promises, the Saxon Centre is still undeveloped and there has been no further progress. We and the residents listed below call on the Mayor and Borough Council to take immediate action to refurbish the Saxon Centre and give us the shopping centre we deserve."

In presenting this petition we are aware that money is tight at the moment and the Council is having to cut back. In order to improve shopping areas, Councils generally take on private sector partners and this is exactly what the Borough has been attempting to do with an existing plan for the Saxon Centre. Unfortunately, after much delay and prevarication lasting for several years, the existing partners – Sainsbury’s - appear to have dropped out. So there is a real urgency to do something now.

In the short time that this petition has been active it has been very popular with Kempston residents and users of the Saxon Centre. In the course of last week alone we collected over 300 signatures, so we are putting it in to the Council now, but we will continue to gather signatures in person and online and expect to have far more by the time it is debated on 23 March."

For more information contact Councillor James Valentine jamesv@ntlworld.com

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