By Dom Stevens –
A need to reimagine Chesterfield’s town centre to complement social and cultural changes has been identified by a cross-industry panel of local experts.
Speaking at Willmott Dixon’s ‘Towns of the Future’ round table, hosted at Casa Hotel, the panel highlighted the importance of a town or city understanding, strengthening and marketing its unique selling proposition (USP).
Using Chesterfield as an example, attendees agreed that – as with many towns and cities across the UK – Chesterfield has the raw social and cultural elements to meet public demand and expectations, but further evolution is required. This includes the need for a strong mix of retail, office and leisure.
Chesterfield has a number of regeneration schemes in progress or in the pipeline that are set to redefine the town following the Covid pandemic.
Jenna Frudd, relationship manager at Willmott Dixon and member of the Chesterfield Property & Construction Group run by Destination Chesterfield, said: “Chesterfield is a prime example of a town with hidden gems – it’s incredibly welcoming and you have a local council and business community that is really open to conversations.
“A collaborative approach between the public and private sector is key to getting to this stage and having this enthusiasm for change is one of the reasons why Chesterfield is well placed to make the right moves going forward.”
A Place Story and brand identity was created in 2010 by Chesterfield Borough Council in collaboration with the local community. This focuses on the elements that makes Chesterfield unique and is used to market the town to potential investors and visitors.
Destination Chesterfield was created at the same time and is a collaboration of over 200 businesses, organisations and public sector partners working together to promote Chesterfield.
As part of the discussion, the group analysed the changing nature of how town centres are used and how the mix of commercial, retail, and social spaces can best be balanced in a rapidly changing world.
Chesterfield is looking to transform the town centre with the £10.28m Revitalising the Heart of Chesterfield scheme. This will change the look, feel and flow of the town centre – creating a contemporary market town that has better connections between key public spaces, and a more attractive physical environment.
It includes plans for significant improvements to Chesterfield’s historic market grounds, along with proposals that will help maximise the potential of the iconic Crooked Spire as a key attraction for visitors, while also re-imagining town centre spaces for a range of flexible uses including markets, festivals, events, cultural celebrations and community gatherings.
Together with the £17m refurbishment of Stephenson Memorial Hall the project is being brought forward thanks to almost £20m which the council secured from the Government’s levelling up fund at the end of last year.
David Willis, director at Chesterfield-based Frank Shaw Architects, said: “A real shift in our urban planning mindset is required, moving away from the traditional town centre mix and towards more social spaces. Chesterfield is a prime example of this – the town square is massively underused, so reinvigorating it is fundamental to what the place has to offer.”
The future of the office was another key talking point, as the panel looked at how a changing approach to hybrid and in-office working will impact town centre spaces.
The need for high quality, flexible, sustainable, energy efficient office space is being addressed in Chesterfield with two Grade A office developments opening in 2022.
Businesses have started to move into the stunning new Northern Gateway Enterprise Centre. The centre, which opened in July, is the first of two recently constructed high quality office developments in Chesterfield town centre.
One Waterside Place at Chesterfield Waterside will open later this year giving the town much-needed modern large floor plate office space which will help attract investment as well as provide space for growth for established businesses in the borough. Tenants have already been identified for significant elements of the space, who will take up occupation on completion.
The Enterprise Centre and One Waterside Place are a key part of Chesterfield Borough Council’s ambitious growth strategy that will see large scale investment and regeneration across the borough.
Rebekah Bacon, land and partnerships manager at Pulse Developments, said: “When thinking about the new role that offices have to play, it’s really important to consider how they sit within the town centre and whether that is a space people want to be in.
“If people want to be in the office, this creates a huge ripple effect across the town, as people are already out of their homes and much more willing to engage with the spaces in the town centre.”
If you are interested in the regeneration of Chesterfield, you can find out more at the Chesterfield Investment Summit which takes place on the 28th September at the Casa Hotel
The ‘Towns of the Future’ roundtable was chaired by Liz Cartwright (Cartwright Communications), and featured Jenna Frudd (Willmott Dixon), Mark Deakin (Turner & Townsend), Amy Revell (We Are Spaces), Lydia Sadler (DLP Planning), Philip Riden (Chesterfield Civic Society), David Willis (Frank Shaw Architects), Spencer Ryan-Prewitt (University of Derby), Rebekah Bacon (Pulse Developments), Andy Dabbs (Whittam Cox, Chair of Chesterfield Property and Construction Group) and Joanne Neville (Harworth Group).
Wilmott Dixon, We Are Spaces, DLP Planning, Frank Shaw Associates, University of Derby, Whittam Cox and Harworth Group support the marketing and economic growth of the town through Chesterfield Champions, a network of over 200 organisations across Chesterfield and North Derbyshire.
Chesterfield Property and Construction Group is a collective of Chesterfield Champions who are working together to represent and support the property sector and help promote Chesterfield as a place to invest.