Council defends regeneration plans for landmark Chesterfield town centre building

Plans to refurbish and remodel a prominent and historic Chesterfield building should have been extended, according to civic leaders.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 11:27 am

Chesterfield Borough Council is bidding for almost £20million of Government funding to transform Stephenson Memorial Hall – which houses the Pomegranate Theatre and museum.

Under the plans, the refurbished hall would bring together under one roof an extended theatre and a reconfigured and modern museum, alongside new gallery space, a café bar, education and community facilities.

While Chesterfield and District Civic Society has welcomed the scheme, it says an opportunity to include adjacent Kilblean House, the former Clifton Hotel and Barking Badger bar, has been missed.

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A late 19th Century view of Chesterfield's Stephenson Memorial Hall. Credit: Chesterfield Borough Council (Chesterfield Museum).

Society chair Philip Riden said: “This seems regrettable for several reasons. The Memorial Hall itself can be refurbished internally but not easily enlarged, since it is surrounded on three sides by roads.

"It could be extended on the south if Kilblean House was demolished, but this seems an unnecessarily expensive solution, since there is already a perfectly good building on the site."

The society says this begs the question of what will happen to Kilblean House.

"The building has been empty for several years and no potential users have shown any interest in it,” Mr Riden added.

"It has not even attracted the attention of any of the developers who seem to be scouring Chesterfield at the moment looking for empty buildings to convert into cheap flats.

"In its present state, Kilblean House adds to the unfortunate impression given to visitors who arrive by train and are immediately confronted by the former Chesterfield Hotel.

“Not to take advantage of outside funding to bring Kilblean House back into beneficial use, alongside the refurbishment of the Memorial Hall, seems to us unfortunate.”

Councillor Kate Sarvent, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for town centres and visitor economy, said: “We are expecting the Government to announce successful Levelling Up fund bids in November.

"Chesterfield’s bid includes two complementary projects, the refurbishment and remodelling of Stephenson Memorial hall and also the regeneration of four town centre areas.

"The Government’s criteria include the ability to deliver all proposals and the council does not own Kilblean House so it has not been included in our bid.

"It is expected that if the Levelling Up bid is successful, the scale of the project will encourage further private investment.”