In last week’s Derbyshire Times several correspondents raised concerns about empty shops in Chesterfield.
I can assure all readers that nobody is working harder than our regeneration team to keep existing shops open, and attract new ones to the town.
We work closely with all businesses in Chesterfield and particularly those where we have an indication that there are problems.
We meet regularly with the retailers and market traders, so we know what’s happening out there on the ground.
We carry out regular health checks of the town centre, including the number of empty shops, so that we know how we are performing against the national average and the areas where we need to concentrate our efforts on.
There are success stories out there like the opening of Debenhams, Maplins, and the Range, and TK Maxx which is about to open.
There will also be other outlets coming to the old Tesco site soon. But it is easy to forget that when you first hear about the unexpected decision by the Co-op to close or the national collapse of HMV and Jessops.
We will never become a town dominated by one shopping outlet if I have any say. But we must also recognise that if we want a variety of stores to survive they will do so because our citizens support them with their trade. The ones which we lose are lost on the back of not being profitable through lack of patronage.
It goes to show that regeneration is not easy in the current economic climate and there will be setbacks along the way.
In light of the Co-op announcement we will need to reconsider the plans for the Northern Gateway redevelopment project because clearly the Co-op site is integral to any future development plans for that area. But at the same time I make no apology for talking the town up as some have criticised me for doing.
Every council leader has a responsibility to progress the economic development of their town. For me it is not just a responsibility but a personal commitment, as a lifelong resident of Chesterfield, to do everything I possibly can to help our shops and the wider economy survive and thrive.
All of my positive comments are founded on statistics, on personal visits to other towns and the comparisons I see, but also on the many visitors, residents, tourists and businesses I meet, who repeatedly tell me how much better our town centre is to others they experience.
If we continually talk the town down then the one thing we can guarantee is that nobody will want to invest and there will be even more empty shops.
That is not a future I want to see and I’m sure the residents of Chesterfield don’t either.
Cllr John Burrows
Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council