Champions Round Table
Review of the Year
What a year 2017 has been for Chesterfield. As well as confirming that the HS2 rail line would be brought through Chesterfield, work got underway on a number of key developments – Waterside, Peak Resort and the transformation of the former Co-op building on Elder Way into a hotel and restaurants.
With 2017 behind us, this month’s round table, organised by Destination Chesterfield in association with the Derbyshire Times, brought together representatives from across a number of Chesterfield’s sectors. Hosted at Shorts Accountants, they discussed their successes of the year and those of Chesterfield and how they can be built on in 2018 to ensure the town not only survives, but thrives.
CM – Colin McKenna – Church Warden, Crooked Spire Church
HF – Howard Freeman, Partner, Shorts
MG – Martin Gerelli, Chief Executive, Starfish Group
SD – Simon Davidson, owner, Cheese Factor
HB – Huw Bowen, Chief Executive, Chesterfield Borough Council
KA – Katie Ash, Director and Head of Employment Law, Banner Jones Solicitors
JT – James Taylor, Managing Director, Roaring Mouse PR
What have been the successes for your business and Chesterfield in 2017?
CM – Quite simply 2017 for the church has been one of making sure that the Church itself and the church yard is a safe place for people to come into. With the help of all the agencies involved we’ve managed to do that. We have also installed a TV in the middle of the church which says all are welcome. That has worked exceedingly well for us, so much so that we had in the region of 25,000 people through the church during the two-week Festival of Christmas Trees. We had visitors from all from all over the world. It was a really spectacularly successful event and the buzz in the church was just absolutely outstanding. There’s always more work to do but it’s been a really positive year for us.
HF – 2017 has been another successful year for Shorts and our growth was up 11% on previous years in terms of revenue. It’s obviously good for us but I think it’s also a good sign that the business community is generally doing ok. It’s not long ago we were going through a recession and a lot of businesses were struggling.
MG – This year the business will turn over double what it did last year. We’ve just finished our first Passiv housing scheme where people will pay less than £100 on their energy bills annually. We’re in talks with How Planning about looking at opportunities here in Chesterfield too, to grow the number of houses here.
The highlight of 2017 for me has been building a really solid foundation and employing local people. We’re now up to about 65 staff and we also became a member of the Chesterfield Champions scheme this year.
SD – It’s been a tough year in retail here in the town centre but it’s been a good year for the RP Davidson The Cheese Factor shop and we’ve done fairly well in awards. In the Chesterfield Retail Awards, we won the Market Hall Retailer of the Year. It’s nice to think people think so highly of us. We also won Chesterfield in Bloom for the look of our shop.
The other great thing is the reduction in business rates, which has helped the business a lot but, as my accountant has advised, don’t just take it and run but invest it back into the business, which I’ve done by becoming a main sponsor of the Food and Drink Fair at Queens Park.
HB – What’s been really positive this year is that 76% of residents are satisfied with the way the council runs things. It’s been a very positive year for the council. We are really pleased with the way in which the town is developing.
We are bucking the trend a little in terms of retail occupancy and have seen some new faces in the town centre – Patisserie Valerie, Trespass and Deichman. We don’t have the Laura Ashley’s, the Fat Faces and White Stuff and so on. Hopefully they will come off the back of Chesterfield Waterside, the Northern Gateway and Peak Resort. They will bring more people into the local economy who will have more money to spend.
Chatsworth Road is bustling. The challenge is to move the wealth to the west beyond West Bars and benefit the town centre. It’s a nice challenge to have as we want Chatsworth Road to be successful.
Northern Gateway will bring footfall back to the northern side of the town centre. The post office building has recently been resold and that again that will be an apartment and restaurant offering at ground floor.
In terms of Chesterfield Borough Council as a business, by the end of this decade we will have to be fully self-financing. There will be no Government handouts, everything that we spend will have to be generated by the council, so we are in a very careful balancing stage in terms of delivering the necessary public services to all and being a lot more commercial in terms of how we operate to generate new income streams.
KA – We’ve had another great year. We’ve done a lot of business with new start-up businesses. We’ve acted for a lot of the new restaurants and bars that have moved into town. It’s nice to be involved in those deals that are driving people into town.
Banner Jones also featured in the Legal 500 again this year which is a real achievement. To be in the top 500 of 118,000 law firms in the country is a real accolade.
JT – Roaring Mouse has just had its best year ever. We’ve grown significantly and broadened the range of services we offer. This year we’ve started working with a Berlin based start-up that wants us to help track big Californian technology companies to use their payment services to connect with their companies across Latin America. I always used to say that Chesterfield was the centre of the world and I think for that kind of campaign it absolutely is.
How can these be built on in 2018?
HB – I do think the visitor economy piece is something that we need to do more on. We have some unique experiences within Chesterfield. We need to become that destination where people come and base themselves and spend time and money in our economy but also stretch out into the Peak District.
JT – I joined the Chesterfield Champions scheme recently and I wish I’d done it years ago. Doing business international and nationally kind of takes your focus away from the here and now. Chesterfield is one of those places that everyone has heard of, but what makes us compellingly different to anywhere else? I think leisure and logistics are two very natural attractions but what are the other high value sectors that we can attract?
HB – We have to recognise we are not going to attract the big original manufacturers to this locality. For us it’s about differentiating and making sure the supply opportunities are here. I think its sensible in terms of place marketing to recognise your position within the hierarchy of business.
MG – I’ve been talking to a modular building provider which wants a factory in Chesterfield.
HB – We own £76million of property as a council and that is 97% let at this point in time and the property that isn’t let isn’t lettable. We’ve had about 1000 enquiries into our business team from people looking for premises over the last 12 months so there’s some real opportunities there and we’re seeing Peppermint Grove and Henry Boot starting to build to meet demand.
MG – We’ve got our Head of Land actively looking for sites in Chesterfield at the moment and looking at a site that is very close to the Peak Resort. We would like to build one or more affordable schemes here as well.
HB: On the housing side, there’s not a lack of demand, we need 265 new homes every year until 2033. We have got plenty of land available and we have consent in place for 3000 homes as it stands today. Investment is starting to return to Chesterfield. Part of the challenge is that a lot of the housing builders want big sites.
MG – Our smallest site in Chesterfield has 18 units but our market is 10-70 units, but we also have a joint venture business which is looking at much bigger sites. Chesterfield is very important to my co-directors and I, we’ve made an investment to come here and this is where we will stay.
HB – The challenge we’ve got is around inclusive growth and ensuring local people benefit from the proceeds of growth. We are making good strides creating a skills system that will make sure that when new jobs are created locally they go to local people. Being an apprentice town is something we’ve prioritised and we’ve now got 3500 apprentices.
MG – We are looking to collaborate with Chesterfield College and trying to bring apprentices forward.
HB – We recognise it is about putting Chesterfield on the map and that’s why we do the Festival of Cricket, Race for Life and lots of other events to bring that audience in. I think there is a market there for those who want to spend a weekend or week within our economy. The Peak District is on the edge for them to explore that but also come into the town too.
SD – The Women’s Cycle Race is another one but it isn’t so great for retail and the council tried so hard this year by arranging the start and finish to be there, again the rain didn’t help
CM – I think anyone in the retail sector would agree that the number of people the Medieval Market Day brings into town is phenomenal.
SD – The 1940s day is fantastic as well. We all have a role to play in promoting the town as a place to live, visit and work. I put myself forward for talks, on local radio and WI groups, to talk about cheese and the history of our shop and I also try to promote Chesterfield at each of these.
There are lots of developments that will make headway in 2018, what opportunities will these create for local business and for attracting further investment to the area?
HB – Chesterfield is a very positive place to be for start-up businesses. Back in 2012 there was about 275 start-up businesses within the town and it’s now at 475 in a calendar year. We now have about 3,300 businesses that are operating within the borough.
SD – From a town centre point of view it’s a fantastic time ahead and exactly what the town centre needs. However, we need to have the traders there in order to support footfall. Peak Resort and Waterside will be a pull for the town.
HB – We know that the specialist markets work – the Artisan, Medieval and Flea markets bring a lot of people in. The traditional market is a challenge, as new people just don’t want to start on a market from early in the morning until 5pm in all weathers unless they’ve actually been in that family tradition.
HF – If you build up Chesterfield as a tourist offering then having the market is definitely part of the overall attractions to get people in.
SD – The market is big pull for the town, like the Crooked Spire is, but it does need to be built on. It has got potential, but we just need to get the traders there.
HB – I was talking to the MD of a large national house builders and the first thing he said was you’ve got that great cheese shop in the centre. Our unique independents like RP Davidson Cheese Factor and Northern Tea Merchants put us on the map.
SD – People need to feel the town it’s easy to get around and quickly get from A to B.
JT – Initiatives like cycle lanes and making it safer to ride with your children into town, would improve accessibility. Improving the links between town and Peak resort will be key and making it an easier place to get into and out of, especially when you don’t want to use the car.
HB – The way we make the connection between the train station and the town centre is going to be critical. Platform 4 is going to be the route into town for pedestrians.
CM – I think the future looks very bright.
JT – There’s lots going on. Let’s just make sure we tell everyone why Chesterfield is the best place in the world, where you can live and base your business.
KA – I’d much rather come to Chesterfield rather than Sheffield with some of the restaurants and bars that are here.
MG – My wife is a Derbyshire lass and we moved up in 2006 from London and to say it was a baptism of fire would be the understatement of the century, but now I’m here I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the planet.