Speakers at this week’s Chesterfield Investment Summit, have revealed that the borough is on course for a faster recovery from the pandemic than many other towns and cities.
The town’s high rate of public sector employment combined with its strong retail, manufacturing, and logistics sectors, have been attributed to Chesterfield’s significantly lower increase in unemployment during the pandemic compared to the national average.
At the Summit, which was attended by more than 130 members of the business community, it was revealed that the borough’s level of unemployment increased by 46% during the pandemic compared to the national average of 77%.
The annual Summit, which was held in-person for the first time in two years, was organised by Destination Chesterfield and Derbyshire Economic Partnership and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Speaking at the Summit, Dr Huw Bowen, Chief Executive of Chesterfield Borough Council revealed the town’s plans for its recovery and growth, include plans to make the case for the re-opening of a rail line and a new £125 million road in the north east of the borough.
He said: “The town has shown a great degree of resilience and done really well during the pandemic. We are now looking towards recovery and growth. Chesterfield’s myriad of competitive advantages, including location, history, transport links, university, skills base, affordability and current construction projects have come together to make it an attractive opportunity for investors.”
Despite the ‘bitterly disappointing news’ to axe the eastern leg of HS2, Dr Bowen, said: “This won’t stop us in bringing forward our ambitious plans to redevelop the former Staveley Works Corridor. We look forward to working with the landowners to bring forward a mixed-use scheme comprising housing, leisure, retail, and light industrial units anchored around a new road and Chesterfield Canal.”
At the summit it was announced that the council remains hopeful that the Government will commit to supporting the reopening of the former Barrow Hill line which will connect Staveley, Barrow Hill, and Whittington to Chesterfield and Sheffield. Proposals for the re-opening of the rail line will, all being well, be submitted early next year.
A total of £1bn of investment is expected to be made in Staveley over the next 15 years, creating 3,500 new homes and 2,200 new jobs. Dr Bowen added: “We have two priorities – to make Chesterfield a thriving borough and improve the quality of life for local people.”
Chesterfield Borough Council is also pressing ahead with its plans to transform the area around Chesterfield train station. The multi-million-pound Station Masterplan, which includes demolition of the former Chesterfield Hotel, will ‘create a sense of arrival’ with modern landscaping and ‘land hungry carparks’ being converted into multi-storey carparks to free up land for residential, commercial, and light industrial development.
Demolition of the Chesterfield Hotel will begin in spring next year with detailed plans for redevelopment of the site still to be confirmed.
2022 looks set to be a formative year for the town, with a number of high-quality office developments – One Waterside Place, The Glass Yard and the Enterprise Centre set to be completed. Construction is also expected to begin on Summit @PEAK, phase one of the low carbon / net zero all year leisure, education, wellness, and entertainment gateway resort.
Speaking at the Summit, Peter Swallow Chair of Destination Chesterfield and managing director of Bolsterstone Group which is developing the 60-acre Chesterfield Waterside scheme, said: “The pandemic has brought about changes in the requirements for office space. Businesses want good quality, sustainable office space with environmental and social governance being a key consideration. Once again, Chesterfield is ahead of the curve with the modern, quality office developments already under construction which will enable the town to attract investors, create jobs and new opportunities for local people.”
In addition to Dr Huw Bowen and Peter Swallow, the Summit also heard from representatives from the town’s public / private partnership – Blue Deer Developments, Lomas Mitchell Architects, Whittam Cox Architects, Devonshire Property Group Limited and Derbyshire County Council – which are working together to ensure Chesterfield meets its ambitions.
Jillian Mitchell of Lomas Mitchell Architects, and Vice-Chair of Destination Chesterfield’s Property and Construction Group, commented: “Nationally, we are on the precipice of a time of seismic change in property design and Chesterfield is ahead of the game on this. The town’s commitment to sustainable construction through private/public collaboration is an opportunity for Chesterfield to lead on nationally.”
Councillor Tricia Gilby, Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, added: “I am very pleased at the wide range of construction projects going ahead across the borough right now. All these developments represent new jobs and opportunities for local people, especially those looking to start their careers.
“Making sure that Chesterfield residents benefit from local economic growth is a key priority for us and our partners. A great example of this is the mentoring support provided by Chesterfield Property and Construction Group, which helps ensure that local people get the jobs that are coming to Chesterfield – including those created during the construction phase of projects, as well as opportunities within the businesses that relocate and grow here.
“It is a very exciting time for Chesterfield, which has been made possible by the hard work and commitment that the council and its partners have put in over many years.”