Chesterfield Borough Council agrees masterplan for future development of town centre

The Crooked Spire.
The Crooked Spire.
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A masterplan has been agreed by Chesterfield Borough Council to guide future development of the town centre.

It contains initial proposals of how the town centre might adapt as it responds to changes in the retail sector caused by the growth of online shopping, a need for more housing and a desire to connect fringe sites to the historic market area.

The plan has been produced by Chesterfield-based WCEC Architects and property regeneration consultants Aspinall Verdi after consultation with businesses and the council.

It recognises eight core areas within the town centre and contains outline proposals for each. Implementing the plan will require the support and financial commitment of both the private and public sector as many sites are outside of the control of the borough council.

Councillor Amanda Serjeant, of the borough council, said: “Chesterfield is recognised as being a historic market town with a great town centre built around the market squares, Crooked Spire church and the historic buildings which previous generations fought so hard to protect.

“But, like all town centres in the country, we need to evolve to take account of the changing world in which we live if we are to continue to attract locals and visitors to it.

“Although the occupancy of our shops is higher than in most parts of the country, and we have a good mix of independent and national retailers, we are not immune to the effects that online shopping and changing consumer habits are having on town centres.

“We will need to take the opportunities created by new technology if it is to remain a popular place to live and visit.”

Andy Dabbs, design director of WCEC Architects, said: “As a Chesterfield business ourselves this masterplan was an important project for us to work on.

“One of the key opportunities we identified is that many of the key sites within the town are physically close together but could be better connected.

“The growth of Ravenside as a retail location, with its proximity to Queen’s Park, offers an opportunity to link up these areas better with the historic core of the town centre but then also link through to the area around the Donut roundabout and across to the railway station.

“We believe there are also opportunities to develop the Markham Road entrance to the town, particularly with the plans to demolish the disused multi-storey car park.”

The masterplan will be used to help guide future planning decisions when applications are made to develop the town centre.

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The masterplan identifies eight core areas within the town centre and makes outline proposals for their future development.

These are:

1. The historic core which focuses on old buildings and the market square. The priorities for this include:

• improving digital and online connections

• carrying out improvements to the outdoor market

• improving street signs and lighting to enable people to visit all parts of the town centre easily

• redeveloping the former Co-op building

• reinvigorating the Victoria Centre

• finding new uses for first floor units above shops

2. The Station Arrival and railway terrace area. The priorities for this include:

• plans for a link road between Hollis Lane and Brewery Street to effectively provide a bypass around the town centre

• having commercial development on the Network Rail owned land to create an area known as Station Arrival.

• improving the pedestrian links between the station and the town centre so they become less separated

3. Northern Gateway

This area – which centres on land known locally as the Donut roundabout – remains a priority for future development despite plans to develop a scheme on the site being delayed due to the changing economic and retail situation created by the recession, particularly with the closure of the Co-op store. Now the economy is growing again the scheme will be looked at again. The original vision had been to have a major food store at the heart of the development. As supermarkets have now moved away from building large stores in favour of small convenience stores a change in emphasis will be considered that may include more leisure and housing use than originally envisaged.

4. The Spire neighbourhood

The masterplan suggests creating an area known as the Spire neighbourhood which would be a residential development to the east of St Mary’s Gate, focusing on areas around the former Derbyshire Times building and surrounding car parks. Improvements would be made to the area to connect it with the town centre and other key development projects, such as Waterside.

5. The civic quarter

The masterplan suggests developing this area, surrounding the Town Hall, as the business and office development area of the town centre. Priorities include:

• Taking opportunities created by the sale of the former North East Derbyshire District Council offices and the availability of neighbouring land on the former Primary Care Trust site

• Completing the redevelopment work on the former magistrates’ court building, which already has planning permission

• Making environmental improvements to maximise the links with Shentall Gardens and the footpath and bridge connection to Queen’s Park

6. Markham Road

The masterplan recognises the need to develop Markham Road as a key gateway and shop window for Chesterfield. Priorities include:

• Having small-scale redevelopment of existing buildings to create a consistent group of buildings that improves the visual look of the approach

• Creating new pedestrian routes through to the core retail area of the town centre

7. Education quarter

This area is focused around the Chesterfield College buildings in the north of the town centre. Having students in the town centre helps make it easier for them to access sites by public transport but also supports the town centre economy. The priorities include:

• The University of Derby’s development of the former St Helena Centre building on Sheffield Road into a university campus

• Environmental improvements to the area

• Ensuring future developments for the college and the university are rooted in the town centre

8. Chesterfield Waterside

The first phase of work to develop this site near the railway station and town centre has already been completed, with new stages of development due to take place this year. The priority for this area is to develop connections to the town centre to ensure the site integrates with the town centre successfully.