Foodstore set for Chesterfield's vacant Debenhams unit?

Plans have been unveiled for a “foodstore” in Chesterfield’s former Debenhams unit.

By Jon Ball
Monday, 12th July 2021, 2:12 pm
Updated Monday, 12th July 2021, 2:14 pm

The news comes after Chesterfield Council approved a variation of planning conditions attached to the Ravenside Retail Park unit, to allow the sale of “food retail goods” across 1,898 sq metres of floorspace.

A similar application was approved in February, allowing a smaller area for food sales.

A statement by agent Savills to accompany the proposal, on behalf of landowner LS Chesterfield, said: “The first application was submitted on the basis of ongoing uncertainty about the future of the then occupier, Debenhams.

Debenhams was liquidated in December 2020, with 12,000 staff losing their jobs and spelling the end of its store at Ravenside Retail Park. The shop, along with the 20 of the chain’s last 48 stores, closed permanently on Wednesday, May 12.

“In January, it was announced all 118 Debenhams department stores would close.

“As a result, Unit 1 is now vacant and, to ensure one of the largest retail properties in Chesterfield does not become vacant for an indefinite period, urgent investment in the site is required.”

It said many retailers have suffered a “downturn” in recent years, accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

It says: “Despite that national context, the applicant has received interest in Unit 1 from retailers that require the ability to offer food sales, in order to remain competitive with similar operations.

Peter Swallow, Destination Chesterfield chairman.

“That interest is demonstrative of confidence in the local market.

“Permission for this proposal will therefore allow Unit 1 to be operated by a retailer which does not currently have representation in this area of Chesterfield.

“The proposal provides the opportunity to secure the long-term future of the site, ensuring floorspace which would otherwise become vacant remains in productive economic use, improving the vitality and viability of Chesterfield.”

The unit boasts 5,747 sq metres of floorspace, with 2,973 sq metres on the ground floor and a 2,774 sq metre mezzanine.

Cars parked at Ravenside Retail Park in Chesterfield.

In a letter accompanying the proposal, described as “conversion of a former department store into a smaller-scale foodstore”, Savills says: “It should be noted the proposed reoccupation would require the removal of the majority of the mezzanine.

“The application is in order to futureproof the unit, by enabling the reoccupation by... a national multiple discount retailer.”

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Jobs boost

It is hoped the scheme will provide a jobs boost, with the application saying it could provide the equivalent of 77 full-time roles, compared with about 48 at Debenhams.

An LG Chesterfield spokeswoman said: “We are in active discussions with an alternative brand to take the space at the former Debenhams store.

“We hope to be able to let people know who this is shortly.”

The news has been welcomed by Destination Chesterfield, which promotes Chesterfield as a place to invest, work, live and visit.

Peter Swallow, Destination Chesterfield chairman, said: “With restrictions set to be fully lifted allowing the high street to return to business as usual, the news that a retailer is being lined up for the former Debenhams site is a further boost to the town.

“Lockdown has shown us all how important the high street is for the local economy, social interaction and choice.

“It is important we all continue our support and #LoveChesterfield.

"Our passion and support for the high street has enabled us to attract another retailer. This is testimony to Chesterfield’s resilience and forward-thinking.”

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