It is all systems go for Chesterfield – a town on the up with big-name brands poised to set-up shop and investment pouring in for regeneration.
It has been highlighted as one of the fasted growing corridors in the UK, with projects like Waterside amongst the country’s largest redevelopment plans.
More than 200 business leaders at a Celebrate Chesterfield event heard how business is booming in Chesterfield town centre, with an extra £800,000 spent in the town over Christmas 2013 – up £300,000 on the previous year.
Huw Bowen, chief executive of Chesterield Borough Council, told the packed meeting at the Proact Stadium the town Centre shop vacancy rate is just 7.7 per cent - way below the national average of 12.2 per cent and chasing top-performing Cambridge, at 7 per cent.
He added that employment soared by 10 per cent between 2009 and 2012, helping reduce unemployment in the borough to 3.1 per cent.
Councillor John Burrows, Chesterfield Borough Council’s leader and executive member for regeneration said: “It demonstrates the continuing strength and attractiveness of Chesterfield as a shopping centre, despite the declining fortunes of high streets across the country.
“According to the Local Data Company’s 2013 survey, shop vacancy rates in Chesterfield stand at eight per cent compared to a national average of 14 per cent, placing Chesterfield in the top 10 of large centres in the country and the best performing centre north of Birmingham.’
George Cowcher, Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce for Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire added:
“The figures speak for themselves - the number of people found work between 2009 and 2012, the reduction in youth unemployment, shop occupancy at 94 per cent, the retail spend in the days before Christmas, even the number of people who attended the celebration event itself – and show that Chesterfield is a town that is attracting investment.
“There are a lot of people, a lot of organisations working together to successfully drive inward investment but there remains the capacity and opportunity for the town to expand further and become even more important to the UK economy.
“There are also a lot of plans still to be brought to fruition which will further enhance the town’s offering.”
Here are some of the key developments that are helping Chesterfield thrive.
Excitement in the town has been sparked by the arrival of jeweller, Pandora and news that Nando’s and department store Boyes are to open Chesterfield branches.
Pandora, which opened it’s store on Low Pavements last week, is reknowned for its charm bracelets and silver jewellery has over 900 stores nationwide.
And news that chicken restaurant Nando’s is to open a branch in the town sparked a social media frenzy, with thousands of responses across online channels and people tweeting their excitement.
On Twitter, @amesrussy said: “This is the best news I’ve heard in ages!” User @bethmcinnes_ added: “Looks like the new @NandosUK in Chesterfield will have to be the size of a small stadium to meet its demand! Long overdue!”
@RaveCeleste also tweeted her enthusiasm, saying: “Chesterfield just got a little bit better!”
Family firm Boyes have also revealed they plan to open a store in Chesterfield, creating 30 jobs when they move into the ground floor of the former Department nighclub on Cavendish Street.
Chairman of the firm Andrew Boyes said: “We chose Chesterfield because it’s a busy and prosperous town. We have had our eye on the town for some time and felt we could offer something different.”
Which businesses would you like to see arrive in Chesterfield?
Further investment has been revealed by Chesterfield College, who are planning a technical academy for the town.
Hoping to take students by September 2016, the academy will appeal to 14 to 19 year olds who do not want an academic career.
The plans are still in the early stages and the college is finalising its application to the Education Funding Agency
The technical academy will support priority sectors identified by the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in areas they have highlighted as priority for job growth.
Prinicipal, Trevor Clay, said: “Local employers are critical to the success of this project. The Technical Academy aims to meet not only the skills needs of these employers for their future workforce but also the needs of young people across the area too. We’re proposing this Academy in order to meet their needs in a way that we don’t think they’re currently being met.”
A boost to Chesterfield theatres to the tune of almost £750,000 in improvements is to get underway next month.
Both the Pomegranate and the Winding Wheel are set to be overhauled thanks to funding from the Arts Council England and Chesterfield Borough Council – who own the venues.
Work on the Winding Wheel is expected to last from April to June and will include improvements to the auditorium, stage and backstage areas to attract further high quality productions. Improved access for artists with impaired mobility is also part of the planned redevelopment.
At the Pomegranate, more seats are to be added to the auditorium, new digital camera equipment to improve film performances. Work is planned for the Pomegranate between July and August.
Councillor Amanda Serjeant, Chesterfield Borough Council’s executive member for culture, leisure and tourism, said: “This is an exciting time for the theatres. We have been able to attract a number of West End shows to Chesterfield in the last 2 years including Joseph, Blood Brothers, Dreamboats & Petticoats, The Pitmen Painters, September in the Rain and most recently The Mousetrap, the most successful play to have been staged at the Pomegranate.
“The improvements will enable us to go even further in extending the programme of events and enhancing the customer’s experience at the theatres. Digital projection in particular will allow us to stream live broadcasts of national opera and ballet for the first time.
“We have planned the works so that at least one of the two theatres is open at any one time, alongside the newly refurbished Assembly Rooms and Hasland Village Hall, so we will still have a programme of events and entertainment running throughout the summer.”
The 16 hectare £340m Chesterfield Waterside development is ranked at number 47 in the top 100 list of the UK’s largest regeneration projects.
Already it is being hailed as an exciting example of best practice regeneration taking a largely vacant area centre and creating a vibrant new environment of buildings and open spaces.
Work has now started on the first residential phase of 19 homes which have been pre-sold to Great Places Housing Association.
Announced in 2011, the scheme has remained a key development for Chesterfield in spite of finance slowing down the initial progress. The importance of the scheme was recognised by Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership in 2012, when it approved £2.4 million of Growing Places funding.
Peter Swallow, chair of Destination Chesterfield and managing director of Bolsterstone Group, which is developing Chesterfield Waterside in partnership with Arnold Laver Group and Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “Acknowledgment of Chesterfield Waterside as a key regeneration project in the UK, coupled with the marketing of the town, has helped bring it to the attention of national commercial property agents, and inward investors/employers looking to establish new locations.”
“Chesterfield’s excellent transport links and central location, coupled with its history and development potential has helped make it a go-to destination for investors. We are bucking regional trends to show success and growth across the board as a result Chesterfield Waterside is gaining a lot of attention from potential investors.”