Dunstable’s oldest surviving inn is among five town centre shops and businesses that, from this week, will get facelifts as part of Central Bedfordshire Council’s area-wide £1million High Street Improvement Scheme.
Together with the town council, the funding offered grants to landlords and businesses for up to 60 per cent of total costs of renovating shop fronts, forecourts and making improvements to vacant units, in order to attract more shoppers and visitors onto the high street.
The Saracen’s Head, Lombardo’s deli, Cafe Latte, Allframe – an art gallery and bespoke picture framer – and the vacant unit next door at 43 High Street North will collectively benefit from almost £50,000 from the Council to help transform their offers.
With parts of the building dating back to the 16th century, The Saracen’s Head is steeped in history, though most of the old building was destroyed in a fire in 1815. But when it was being rebuilt, a buried hoard of coins was discovered, dating back to the years of the Civil War. And, in 1983, a 300-year-old cannonball was found in the garden, which is thought to date back to that time, when Oliver Cromwell’s troops were in the area.
Cllr Nigel Young, Central Bedfordshire Council Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “We are committed to revitalising our market towns and The Saracen’s Head encapsulates centuries of Dunstable’s history and heritage. Added to that, Lombardo’s has been an established family business which has offered Italian food and drink and been part of the social fabric of the town for 40 years, while Cafe Latte and Allframe, combined, have served the town for more than three decades, so we’re delighted that these businesses will be able to enhance their offers and help boost the vibrancy of Dunstable.
“And, in giving a new lease of life to the vacant unit on High Street North, the High Street Improvement Scheme, in partnership with the town council, will help provide a home for another new business in the town.”
This will complement £1.25million of the Market Town Regeneration Fund initiatives already announced for Dunstable and co-funded with the town council – some completed, like the completed Splash Park in Bennett’s Recreation Ground – and the £6.3million secured by Central Bedfordshire Council from the government Housing Infrastructure Fund. All of which will help fulfil the authority’s over-arching ambitions to give residents back their High Street and encourage people to spend more time in the centre of Dunstable.
Cllr Young added: “We have already begun re-routing heavy goods traffic away from the High Street, so the next step will first be the removal of railings and unnecessary street clutter to make it more pedestrian friendly. And with the transformation of some much-loved shops, pubs and businesses, courtesy of the High Street Improvement Scheme, there will be even more reason to visit Dunstable town centre.”