Chesterfield needs to improve its night-time economy and become more accessible to meet the needs of shoppers and residents.
These were two of the findings of a special workshop to explore how the town centre needs to develop over the next few years to become more competitive.
Dozens of business leaders and council staff attended the workshop at the Winding Wheel on Thursday (November 13), organised by Chesterfield Borough Council.
The session’s findings will feed back into Chesterfield’s next Town Centre Masterplan - the first since the credit crunch hit in 2007 - and aims to allow key stakeholders the chance to input into the debate.
Delegates also discussed the issue of derelict buildings around the town centre - particularly the iconic former Co-op building, on Elder Way, which closed last year.
But town planners said their hands were tied in terms of intervening to get the premises reused, beyond trying to make the town more appealing to potential retail investors.
Andrew Dabbs, design director at Chesterfield-based architects WCEC Group, is working with the council on the plan.
He said: “The issue with stores like the Co-op is that they are owned by private landlords and we can’t compel them to let them out. However, what we can do is work to improve footfall in the town which would make buildings such as this more appealing for potential investors.
“We need to look at how we can make the various parts of the town centre better connected and to think about the heritage we have here - so protecting views of Chesterfield’s Crooked Spire is also vital.
“Future development is not just about bricks and mortal, it is about technology and making sure the whole town centre is equipped with effective wifi.”
The Co-op closed in July 2013 due to declining sales and has been empty ever since. It is one of several architecturally significant sites around the town that raised concerns with delegates.
The area around Shentall Memorial Gardens was also discussed, along with calls for new uses to be found for former council offices and the town’s derelict former magistrates’ court.
Concerns were also raised about the amount of ground-level car parking around the outskirts of the town centre, poor access to the station, congestion into Chesterfield, and out-of-town retail parks diverting trade away from the centre.
Delegates said more needed to be done to preserve the town’s traditional black and white architecture, as well as introducing more high-end retail and artisan traders to the town’s outdoor market.
Many felt that Chesterfield now struggled to compete with nearby cities such as Sheffield and Derby, and that the town’s night-time economy was ‘non-existent’
Ben Aspinall, from Leeds-based property consultants Aspinall Verdi who are also working with the council, said: “We want to bring investment to the town and this is part of the reflective process we are currently undertaking.
“There are things that we can control and we need to identify what the priorities should be.”
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