The feelgood factor is coming back to Dunstable, with an encouraging TV news report, looking at the town five years after a damning documentary.
Back in 2009, retail guru Mary Portas dismissed the town as a shopping centre “on its last legs” and said crosses showing empty units on a plan looked “like a cemetery”. Caustic comments in Mary Portas: Save Our Shops were criticised as a one-sided view, ignoring key regeneration plans.
Now a BBC Look East news report has painted a more positive picture of Dunstable.
The latest report highlighted cheering news including significant investment by businesses, thriving areas including Brittany Court, in High Street South, and the launch of the new Luton and Dunstable Guided Busway.
Interviewees included Councillor Nigel Young, of Central Beds Council.
The executive councillor told the Gazette: “My main point is that Dunstable is recovering. The high street itself is doing quite well.”
In Look East’s update on the town, reporter Anna Todd said Dunstable is “starting to bloom”.
She said: “It’s not perfect, still some empty shops, still endless traffic, but it’s a far cry from the portrait painted by Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, a few years ago.”
Showing shots of empty stores once home to major retailers, she said the town could not “play the big name game” any more.
But she added: “But as the guided busway brings more people in and a new bypass, once open, takes the lorries out, there is a positive vibe.”
The news report told of how teams in Brittany Court had invested heavily in their businesses – and were “reaping the rewards”.
Mr Young, who has special responsibilities for economic regeneration, spoke of new businesses opening up.
He said: “The high street itself is thriving but it needs change. The pavements need widening, a cafe culture needs to develop. It will be a completely different animal in three or four years time.”
Ian Cording, chairman of the Beds branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, spoke of the improving business scene.
He said: “There’s a lot of vibrancy – there’s a lot of new interest, new businesses.”
Wrapping up the report, Anna Todd said: “It’s all about shaking off the negativity, shrugging off the bad-mouths. If Dunstable can do that and turn itself around, it will bring hope to high streets everywhere.”