Champions Round Table
Property and Construction
Chesterfield is in the middle of a construction boom. The town is experiencing a renaissance in house building with nearly 2000 homes set to be built over the next five years and house builders in the borough reporting that new builds are being sold off plan before a spade is even put in the ground. Alongside this, commercial projects such as Northern Gateway, Chesterfield Waterside and Peak Resort are set to take shape in 2018.
Hosted by homebuilder Starfish Group, panellists came together to discuss what’s next for Chesterfield and, more importantly, how the momentum of the construction wave the town is currently on can be maintained.
AB – Ashley Booker – Content Editor, Derbyshire Times
DS – Dom Stevens – Destination Chesterfield Manager
IB – Ian Bates – Sector Forum and Representation Manager, East Midlands Chamber
PM – Patrick Middleton – Chesterfield Borough Council, Northern Gateway
IO – Ian Osborn – Commercial Property Solicitor, Banner Jones Solicitors
PS – Peter Storey – Head of Markham Employment Growth Zone, Derbyshire County Council
AS – Adrian Sheehan – Head of Property, BRM Solicitors
MG – Martin Gerrelli – CEO, Starfish Group
What’s the mood currently in Chesterfield’s property and construction sector?
PM – We’re seeing residential development really moving and a lot of long term planning agreements and options coming to fruition. I think it’s quite visible around the town that houses are starting to go up. We’re also seeing a lot of commercial property doing well. It’s good to see projects of all sizes going forward with Chesterfield Borough Council.
PS – From Markham Vale’s perspective, we’ve seen a lot of success with local companies winning contracts on their own merit. The civil engineering companies and construction companies that have won the competitively tendered contracts are largely local companies.
MG – We work in Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the North West. We’re a relatively small business however have just secured a £100million joint venture with a registered provider in the North West.
We are also driving forward our social value ambitions – building more social housing and trying to create sustainable communities where people can put down roots. That’s the mission of the business – creating better business homes and communities. That’s what I signed up to when I set up Starfish Group.
PM – We’re seeing projects now moving to early delivery stages on a number of key schemes for Chesterfield, which includes Peak Resort and Chesterfield Waterside, where infrastructure and enabling projects have either been completed or are close to completion. Jomast are now onsite with the former Co-op building, and the conversion into the Premier Inn. The hotel should be completed this year and will signify a major step forward for that part of the town centre.
DS – On the retail side, it’s tough times out there in that sector as a whole, but the town centre is holding up relatively well against other places. We have a higher than national average rate for retail occupancy.
Do investors and developers see Chesterfield as somewhere that they can do something a bit different?
DS – There was a Barclaycard survey last year about consumer spending habits. 10 years ago the majority was spent on retail, whereas now it’s on experiences and doing things. It’s not surprising that a lot of the schemes moving forward now are leisure led as opposed to retail. Our habits change and we’re staying on top of that as a town. Our location is our strength.
PM – Chesterfield has seen a shift from the nine to five economy, not just in leisure but in manufacturing and retail as well. The infrastructure that that economy needs has also changed. Not only the physical infrastructure but also the social elements that go into it, like public transport and parking.
MG – The reason that we came to Chesterfield, after looking at Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Mansfield, was because we were looking for a facility that we could use to springboard into something that we could then own. Chesterfield was the only location that allowed us to do that as it was the only one to have an innovation centre that was being actively promoted that we could step into while looking for business premises to purchase. The leadership of Huw Bowen inspired me to get involved with Chesterfield and want to contribute to the economy.
IO – There’s a bit of noise being made at the moment around a change in planning laws. It’s in the early stages but I’m interested to see how that develops in giving power back to local authorities. I think the focus at the moment is on the residential side but this could make other development opportunities more attractive.
What actions need to happen to make sure the town benefits fully from the regeneration and development opportunities will bring?
IB – With HS2, there’s huge potential for businesses to get involved beyond the trains and tracks. However, even if you’re not a tier 1 supplier, you still have to be compliant. The Chamber is working on a number of procurement events so that small businesses can get involved. Working in partnership with people like Destination Chesterfield, the local authorities, across the D2N2 patch and beyond– there’s an ability to share that best practice.
PM – Lobbying is taking place at the moment to make Chesterfield a two stop station. Giving us a stop to both London and Birmingham can only strengthen any business case in terms of wider regeneration and development of the station area and the rest of the town centre.
AS – HS2 is a huge plus for Chesterfield. We’re a well connected town anyway but once we get HS2 there will be few places that can compete with us. Although Sheffield’s just up the road, there is a comparatively low cost base here. There’s a huge marketing potential to bring business into the town on the back of it.
MG – The job opportunities created by developments such as Staveley Regeneration Zone and HS2’s depot facility will have a knock on effect for the wider supply chain and bringing people to the town. These people are going to have to live somewhere. There’s a brilliant opportunity to try and house people in that immediate community. There’s tremendous vision going into improving the centre of Chesterfield, but I think we can also start creating some village type communities that become an extension of the centre.
AS – This is how the town used to work in the days of mining. Wealth was brought into Chesterfield.
PS – Because of the performance indicators that HS2 is using, there are going to be lots of opportunities for local apprentices and sub contractors. It’s key is that local contractors benefit from the big spend. We need to keep the pressure up on HS2 so that their performance indicators not only include skilled but also local procurement.
IB – Skills are key for HS2, starting now within primary schools. They are the people that are going to be working in 2034. It’s never too early to start looking at the opportunities and how wide they are. It’s not just trains and tracks, it’s so much more. We have to get the conversation started, and make people aware of those opportunities, and give everybody the chance to get that work and keep it local.
We need to have the conversations with local colleges and training providers to explain the width and breadth of the different opportunities involved. It can be very hard to change a curriculum, but we have to look towards the future.
PM – It’s key that we use the opportunity to improve that connectivity between the station and the town centre.
DS – There’s the danger that people shrug off HS2 as being 20 odd years away. But as a town and as a county, we have to make sure we make the most of the economic benefit during the planning and build phases and beyond.
MG – It’s about making sure Chesterfield is the place to be.
How do we maintain the momentum in the town/ attract further commercial and property investment into Chesterfield?
PS – We need to understand our Unique Selling Point. There are only a handful of places that can boast the transport links, skilled workforce, etc. that we can, but it’s about having the information to back that up. We need to come together, pool resources, and evidence all of the claims that we make.
IB – We need to understand the capacity of the commercial market and identify where the shortfalls are and that could drive a more knowledgeable way in terms of the types of properties that are constructed.
PS – At Markham Vale we have small start-up units in the innovation centre and big business units and we have found there’s a gap in the middle which we are trying to address, however the cost of providing that is not always competitive. It’s trying to match expectations with budgets.
DS –The collaboration approach is key. We’re brilliant as a town but we also need to work with those wider partnerships and partners to spread the word, to make sure that our sites, products and opportunities are out there in the investment world. We’ve got the business networks to support us to do that.
PS – The competition is strong for inward investment. Everyone is after it.
AS – Funding models are changing which is benefitting us. Companies and less reliant on banks which, over the last eight years haven’t been very forthcoming. Bigger partnerships mean much more money can be brought into Chesterfield for investment.
DS – More forward planning is key. We have phase 1 with lots of schemes in development but we need to understand what we’re selling as phase 2 and start pushing it.
MG – It’s about sustainability too. We all talk about it, but it’s about really putting it on the front of the agenda of any development or of any strategy. Particularly with residential developments, we need to make sure they are future proofed and that we are building the right kind of affordable homes. It has to be about the person behind the front door.
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