The Derbyshire Times’s ‘Boom Town’ headline last week was received with great scepticism in many circles. There is a view among many that the town is in danger of being saddled with developments that do not reflect the needs of the town and its people by a council that relies on developers for ideas, rather than providing the real leadership that is needed to regenerate.
The first issue to address is that of the Waterside development, that big old white elephant waiting since 2009 to happen between the old Trebor and Arnold Laver sites. This scheme, conceived in a different time and financial climate should be re-thought before it is too late.
How many people are aware that this scheme promises two new hotels and 30,000 sq metres of retail space? That is in addition to the hotel promised in the Northern Gateway scheme and a possible fourth hotel for the Co-op Elder Way building.
All this when we have just lost one hotel through lack of business and the Peak Resort (ahem ...) will open new hotel capacity in Unstone. Who in Chesterfield is aware that 30,000 sqm of new retail space is planned for Waterside when not one square metre of space has been let out in the 9,000 sq m Elder Way premises and many town centre shops lie empty?
All this at a time when the Tesco mega-store has just succumbed to franchising 20 per cent of its store area to high street retailers.
This scheme is surely madness. Details of this maniac project are available at chesterfieldwaterside.com - a website that hasn’t been substantially updated since 2010 - hardly inspiring confidence in the chosen developer.
The Basin Square area should be offered to Chesterfield and Derby Colleges and the rest of Waterside should be turned into a commercial corridor - allowing businesses like Buildbase, Jewsons, Allen and Orr to re-locate thereby facilitating those elements of the masterplan that focus on residential development in the immediate town centre.
As for the Northern Gateway scheme, after a false start we are promised a re-vamp, to include an additional new cinema complex - just as UK cinema admissions have peaked and are starting to downturn. Not to mention some unspecified leisure facility ... just as the council are about to open their brand new and badly sited leisure centre in the Queen’s Park annexe. Oh, and there’s a new gym planned for the Co-op building as well. Enough said.
The recently published masterplan had some excellent schemes and suggestions that would make an impact on the viability of the town if they were implemented.
These comprise mainly schemes for new houses and apartments. I have said it before and will say it again, we need to re-populate the town centre to re-generate it. Those 1,200 houses and apartments planned for Waterside will only add to the congestion at either end of the by-pass, better to engage with developers to build them around the town centre itself. Chesterfield borough councillors need to lose their addiction to grand projects on the periphery and rebuild the town from the centre outwards. Renewed prosperity will surely follow.