This is the first in a short-series of posts in the run-up to our public meeting, on whether we need to rethink Chesterfield town centre, on 27th February.
Town centres the world over are having to change. Online shopping, out-of-town shopping centres and supermarkets have meant that for everyone shopping habits have changed dramatically; add in Covid, the demise of chain stores (BHS, Arcadia, Debenhams) and the cost of energy – it’s a wonder we still have a town centre.
Like every story there’s two sides to it. The public complain because the town isn’t what it was, yet our actions – shopping online, out of town etc – have created the decline. Not a criticism – just things change and town centres need to change and evolve into a space that is much more than retail.
Town centres are the hub of the community but they need to become more relevant. It’s great that the Pomegranate and the museum are being re-vamped. But are these plans for the town centre based on old thinking?
Is our town centre just simply too large? Historically it’s spread out, as in the 12th century a decision was made to provide a new market at its present location. The old market area was to the north of the parish church. Is this area – parts of Stephenson Place, Holywell Street, Saltergate and Cavendish Street – still able to support retail on the scale of yesteryear?
Something, for example, needs to be done with the former Regal Cinema and Eyres. Is retail or leisure use here still sustainable? If not what might happen?
Should we, perhaps look radically at this area? Could there be more housing here? And what should this look like – apartments in existing buildings, knocking down and replacing some of the less visually attractive buildings or combining new with old?
There are the usual issues about ownership (most of the area is in private hands), but there’s been similar schemes elsewhere of regeneration using residential building. Take, for example, the picture here of mixed housing at Hucknall on the periphery of the town centre.
If you’re interested in contributing your thoughts on a town centre rethink we hope you’ll join us at our meeting on 27th February at St Thomas Church Centre, Chatsworth Road, Brampton, starting at 7.30 pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.