Ambitious plans to transform Chesterfield Market are backed - now it's time to have your say
Council chiefs have backed ambitious plans to revitalise Chesterfield Market – “creating a vibrant open-air shopping experience with new event space, seating, and landscaping”.
Members of Chesterfield Council’s cabinet backed the Revitalising the Heart of Chesterfield draft vision masterplan when it was brought before them this week.
Proposals include relocating stalls in New Square and on Low Pavement to a single site of 100 stalls on Market Square, to “create a more defined and vibrant market area”.
New Square would be remodelled as a “flexible events space”, while the ground will be upgraded “to improve the quality while also making it more accessible”.
The plans also include brighter, more flexible stalls, as well as new seating areas and landscaping.
Presenting the scheme to cabinet members, Stephen Wenlock, project delivery manager, said: “Chesterfield, in common with many places in the UK has experienced an unpredecented challenges, primarily due to changing consumer habits. This affects the vibrancy and quality of offering.
“Covid restrictions have exacerbated this, with a change in the percentage of retail sales completed online.
“Low footfall makes it harder for our businesses to exist. They receive less income and this has a significant impact on the town and its vibrancy and also the outside market.
“Chesterfield has responded by taking action to make Chesterfield an even better place to be, with high-quality spaces and high-quality events and experiences that will encourage more people to visit, to come more often and stay here for longer enjoying it.”
The report says: “It is recommended the council supports action to attract people back into the town centre by making it a great place to be.
“This can be achieved by building on the town’s distinctive characteristics to provide people with an experience that is uniquely ‘Chesterfield’, something which differentiates from competing centres and which can’t be replicated online.
“There is a need to position and promote Chesterfield as a contemporary market town – a town which is the focus of a range of activities that can generate footfall, whether that’s through more jobs and residential development in and around the centre, or more socialising, leisure and events-related activity.”
Echoing colourful past
Regarding the plans for the market, the report says: “Proposals for the Market show a consolidation of stalls to 100, which means removing current areas of stalls in New Square and Low Pavement.
"These proposals are expected to be able to cater for the Thursday Flea Market and allow the market to be located in one space, which will appeal to shoppers by not looking like it is empty – even when there are 70
traders in the town.
“The layout for the 100 stalls is a grid that increases sightlines and the ‘permeability’ of the market over the current layout and aims to remove the number of central stalls in the current impermeable layout that trade poorly and at consequently lower rents.
“The new stall designs are inspired by the existing design, which the council knows the traders broadly like, with a structure and fabric canopies that echo the colourful ones of years gone past.”
Coun Paul Holmes, leader of the opposition, questioned what plans there were for the floor surface of the market area, with a need for improved accessibility and flat ground for events.
Dr Huw Bowen, council chief executive, said it was a balance between keeping the historic cobbled street feel and making it more accessible to everyone, which will be a key part of the public consultation.
He said: “We are looking at options about how we improve the accessilbity of the market, but clearly there will be a lot of people who still value the cobbled sections of the market ground, so I don’t think we’ve got a definitive view on that.
“It will go out to public consultation and we will take heed of what people say.”
The council has already secured £1.15 million towards the scheme, with more being sought from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.
Coun Amanda Serjeant, deputy council leader, said: “We all know Chesterfield is a fantastic place to live, but we need to make sure we grasp this opportunity.
“It really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity with the funding available to us and that we have bid for to revitalise our town and provide more opportunities for people who live here, people who live within travelling distance for day visits and to attract people for those important overnight stays.”
However, the plans have met with a mixed reaction from traders.
Steve Langley, aged 60, who runs Kay’s Pets with his wife Kay, said everyone was suffering from a lack of custom.
“It’s a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic,” he said. It’s not just the market suffering from a lack of football. I don’t think there’s one single answer the council can do to fix the problem.”
Nick Ibbotson, 47, a third generation trader on Ibbotson’s Fruit and Veg, called for more public seating in the town centre.
“I am excited about it,” he said, “although it’s quite vague what’s going to happen at the moment.
“I think we should have a really nice seating area, because there isn’t one, somewhere to sit and have a cup of coffee.”
Suzi Stone launched her own stall, Flower Girl Plants, in April, having worked on the market for four years.
The 48-year-old said: “It’s fantastic that we’re getting a facelift.”
Steve Buxton, 57, has been bringing his rug stall to the market for 10 years.
“It’s a good idea, if it happens,” he said.
However, he feared for the market’s future, due to the lack of young traders.
"It’s been a tough time, “ he said. “It’s getting harder. There’s no young people coming anymore.”
The scheme is now set for further public consultation, before delivery plans are finalised – with initial work set to begin in early 2022.