Friday, 27 December 2013

A successful year for Chesterfield

Each month I endeavour to provide a snapshot of Destination Chesterfield’s current successes and future plans for the town. As we enter the New Year I thought now would be an appropriate time to reflect on all that Chesterfield has achieved to date , paving the way for more good news, development and investment in 2014.

Probably our proudest achievement as a town is that we’re emerging from this recession in better shape than ever. As my colleague and Vice Chair of Destination Chesterfield Cllr John Burrows tells us: “We could have chosen to bunker down and ride out the recession but we didn’t. We chose to forge ahead with our marketing plans.”

As a result, we’re coming out of this recession fighting and we have the figures to prove it.

In May, the 16 hectare, £340 million Chesterfield Waterside development was announced as one of the UK’s largest Regeneration and Renewal projects. With detailed planning permission granted towards the end of 2013, work will start on the first residential phase early in the New Year. Already it has been hailed as an exciting example of best practice regeneration taking a largely vacant area centre and creating a vibrant new environment of buildings and open spaces, finishing runner up to the Olympic Park in the National Regeneration and Renewal awards.

In July we reported a housing boom, well before other towns and cities in the UK. House prices in the Town have risen *7.7%, the highest figure throughout Derbyshire, which puts us above the national average house price increase of 6.5% a year.

In September, Chesterfield was named as the only town north of the Watford Gap to be in the top ten of towns with the least shop vacancies. The town’s vacancy rate – which fell from 8.7 per cent last year to 7.7 per cent in 2013 – puts us in the top ten large centres in the country, way below the 13.5 per cent average.

Our retail offering has improved month-on-month, with large high street names and independent retailers choosing to make Chesterfield their home. Throughout 2013 we welcomed a number of major retailers to our town, including TK Maxx, B&M Bargains, Hobbycraft and Asda Living.

While other high streets may be strugglings, Chesterfield’s is growing with retailers attracted by a wealth of available property and development sites. We further added to this offering when we celebrated the re-opening of the Market hall in October after its £4 million refurbishment, helping attract more independent retailers to both the town centre as well as outlying areas like Chatsworth Road and Whittington Moor

As part of the growth in property and retail, our food and drink offering has improved substantially in recent years, so much so that we hosted our very own Food and Drink Awards in October with none other than Ainsley Harriott as the host. I am delighted to report that we are already looking ahead to the 2014 Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards with some sponsors already signed up.

We have built a very powerful investment message for our town and in November we took it to Westminster, where we met potential investors from the property and retail sectors as well as the Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP. He praised Destination Chesterfield saying, ‘it is a good example of the public and private sector working together and taking responsibility to attract investment and promote their town.’ Looking at everything we have achieved together these last 12 months, I couldn’t have said it better myself


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Tasty future for Chesterfield

The Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards certainly did what they set out to do – put the town’s hospitality sector in the spotlight. Not only did the awards unite our thriving hospitality sector, they showcased the up and coming talent emerging from Chesterfield College as the students catered for the ceremony. And delicious it was too.

The town really embraced its first ever Food and Drink Awards. We had no shortage of nominations, sponsors and contributors, all keen to make it a success. There really was something for everyone, right down to the table decorations on the night which were supplied by local artist and Chesterfield Champion Clare Gage. The entire project has once again showed how the people of Chesterfield really care about the success of the town and want to be part of it.

More importantly, I would like to think that the awards sent a very clear message to young people about the opportunities that exist right here in Chesterfield. They were able to see for themselves that we have a thriving hospitality sector ready and willing to offer careers to young people. The best restaurants and hotels are not in the cities, they are now right here on our own doorstep and represent an opportunity to retain our home-grown talent.

The town now has more choice than ever for places to eat and drink. In November alone we welcomed the Market Plaza CafĂ© to the newly refurbished Market Hall as well as The Wingerworth Pub & Kitchen on the outskirts of Chesterfield. If dining out is a marker of a town’s economy, then ours is booming. We got the opportunity to shout about our success to major retailers and property developers, which was hosted by Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins recently at the Houses of Parliament.

The event showcased the town’s potential to retailers and developers in order to attract new investments and present Chesterfield as the place to be for business development and job opportunities.

Yes, we have attracted some big retailers to the town, Hobbycraft and Asda Living being the latest names to join the Ravenside Retail Park, but we must not rest on our laurels. We have a future generation of workers to think about providing jobs and homes for.

Having seen for myself the talented young people training at Chesterfield College I, for one, do not want to lose them from our local economy due to lack of opportunity. I am confident however, that together, we can build a sustainable and very bright future for Chesterfield.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Improving our gateways

"It would be remiss of me not to mention the fabulous weather we have had this summer, give or take a few thunder storms. Luckily, they seemed to miss the Chesterfield Festival of Cricket at Queen's Park. The good weather and the cricket pulled many visitors to our town and, it seemed, the train was a popular choice of transport.

Each day of the week-long festival we witnessed a steady stream of cricket fans make their way from the station, up Corporation Street and through the heart of the Town to Queens Park. And soon the station will offer an equally appealing welcome as the town centre, as it is earmarked in the Borough Council's £500,000 Gateway Enhancement Scheme .

The improvements will happen at the Hornsbridge roundabout, which you can currently have a say on your prefered scheme and the Railway Station Link – which includes Crow Lane from the railway station past the Chesterfield Hotel and across the public footbridge, which links to Corporation Street and the town centre.

The train station is vital to our local economy. The excellent direct rail links Chesterfield has with major towns and cities is just one of the many reasons why companies and people choose to locate here. Testament to this is the fact that property developers and estate agents in the town are reporting a boom in sales. Miller Homes East Midlands has described Chesterfield as being "at the top of the wish list for many couples, families and individuals looking to buy."
It's an excellent good news story for the town. Things are very much starting to look up for both the local and national economy. We have never stopped investing in our town - the £4 million redevelopment of the market hall being a prime example - and this shows by the fact people want to come here to live, work and visit. So many towns have fallen victim to the recession and report ghost town high streets. Not us. We are booming.

To quote my colleague, Councillor John Burrows, Vice Chair of Destination Chesterfield: "We could have chosen to bunker down and ride out the recession, but we didn't. We chose to be proactive and forge ahead with our marketing plans and this shows in the recent employment, tourism and retail figures."

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Chink of light at the end of the tunnel

Second only to our world-famous crooked spire, Chesterfield’s market is also a well-known and loved feature of the town and is an important part of our heritage. We not only have one of the biggest open-air markets in the country, but we will soon have a spectacular brand new indoor market.

The end is in sight for the £4 million renovation of our Market Hall. In October the awning will be lifted off the new glass roof, and the refurbished market hall will be unveiled and opened, once again, for business.

Chesterfield Champions were privileged to have a recent behind the scenes tour mid renovation and, without exception, everyone felt excited and positive about what this major investment means for our town and economy.  Aside from what you’d expect in a market, there will be office space and, more importantly, incubation studios specifically for new and fledgling businesses. This must make Chesterfield market not only a great place to shop but also a rich vein of business development.

Externally, the Market Hall will add yet another stunning piece of architecture to our town. All too often a visit into Chesterfield town centre involves a tunnel-vision approach. However look above the shop fronts and you will see some historic and grand buildings that, when put together, make us a very attractive town and tourist destination.  It can come as no surprise that we were voted as the Coach Friendly Town or City of the Year at the annual Coach Tourism Awards earlier this year.

Now we just need to sort out the main gateways to Chesterfield town centre to ensure they don’t let down our Town, which is so full of character. I am confident that such improvements will happen sooner rather than later as there are plans to transform the Donut roundabout area in an estimated £50 million development scheme into a high quality shopping and leisure area, and to improve the ‘Donkin’ roundabout at the entrance to theTown.

Similarly there is strong interest for Chesterfield Waterside on both the housing and commercial elements of the scheme and it is hoped that initial works will start towards the end of the year.

I for one see a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Construction projects across the country, indeed the world, have slowed in recent years however the economy is picking up and nowhere is this more clear than Chesterfield.

Markham Vale for one continues to attract investment. Already more than 200 jobs have been created on site in the past couple of years and now Ready Egg is building a new factory which will create 50 Jobs. I am confident we will hear more success stories like this going forward as investors recognise the potential in Chesterfield and commit money and resources.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Chesterfield - A Welcoming Town

Thanks to Barratt Homes and the European Regional Development Fund £500,000 will shortly be invested into developing  Chesterfield town centre’s key gateway locations – Hornsbridge Roundabout and the Railway Station Link. The enhancements will all come together to create a ‘warm welcome to visitors’ to our town.

However, the Town’s  ‘warm welcome’ goes well beyond the visual enhancement of sculpture, art installation, signage, planting and way marking. It’s about the people – businesses and residents – and how we project ourselves in person and online to promote our pride and affection for the area and to create the ultimate warm welcome and reason to visit Chesterfield.

Recently, 15 people underwent training to become ambassadors for Chesterfield.  The scheme is for front line staff and residents in the town and recognises the important role they play in shaping the impressions of the Town to visitors, whether they are here on business or pleasure. Speak to a Chesterfield Ambassador and not only will they be able to give you the low down on the town’s regeneration plans, but also where to eat, what’s on and how many tonnes of lead were used to make the Crooked Spire -  approximately 33 tonnes in case you’re interested.

The Internet is also extending the message about our Town’s ‘warm  welcome’ nationally as well as abroad. Social media has become a powerful marketing tool for both DestinationChesterfield and the many independent retailers here. They are using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to people and make them aware of everything that the town has to offer, resulting in them being sought out by the many tourists who visit Chesterfield each year. One town centre independent trader now has customers from as far afield as Scotland, Canada, Australia and America.

Latest tourism figures for Chesterfield show the town is growing in popularity as a place to visit. The boost in the number of tourists has also increased the amount of money being spent in the town by 11% since 2010; that’s way above the 2% increase for the East Midlands region and also tops the 7% increase for the Peak District and Derbyshire.

Recently Destination Chesterfield has been encouraging people to add the #LoveChesterfield Twibbon to their Twitter accounts in order to shout about how great the town is and what we love about it. This was done in response to a cruel jibe a national newspaper (Metro) had at Chesterfield after Sheffield was declared as the happiest city in the UK. Residents and businesses have come out in force in support of the town.

While we are investing physically in developing Chesterfield by creating a visually pleasing reception for visitors, equally important are the people who they come into contact with – you! Luckily, our town has welcoming and friendly people in abundance. I feel  sure l that some of the good humour of Cestrefeldians influenced our neighbour’s happiest city award!!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Local businesses invited to Celebrate Chesterfield

Celebrate Chesterfield Event November 2011 at the Casa Hotel
Two and a half years ago we launched Destination Chesterfield to over 100 businesses who attended the opening event at the former B2net Stadium. Since then the project, which aims to raise the profile of Chesterfield, and raise awareness of the Business and investment opportunities available in the town, has I believe been a great success.

As a result of this progress, Destination Chesterfield has secured further funding from the European Regional Development Fund to continue the project through to December 2015; this is great news for Chesterfield and for those of us who do business in the town.

We would like to celebrate the achievements of the project, and the Town’s businesses to date, and to launch to our plans for the next 3 years. So if you run a local business, we’d like to invite you to attend the Celebrate Chesterfield event on the 28th March at the Proact Stadium starting at 08.00.

Celebrate Chesterfield will be an ideal opportunity for you to meet some of the key people who are working to achieve our goal of making the town a “contemporary destination”, to network with other Chesterfield businesses, and be the first to hear our exciting plans for moving the project forward in 2013 and beyond.

Places are limited so please confirm you attendance by visiting and booking online at no later than Friday 22nd March

I very much hope you can join us for what I’m sure will be yet another successful and well attended event and continue to support Destination Chesterfield in promoting this great town.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Manufacturing and engineering companies voices their opinions

Firstly Happy New year to all readers of the blog! May 2013 deliver all that you wish for.
In last months column I introduced the new Chesterfield Manufacturing and Engineering Forum. Destination Chesterfield recently held the first event which was hosted and chaired by fellow Destination Chesterfield Board Member, James Brand, Managing Director of United Cast Bar Ltd.
A packed board room of businesses discussed the latest issues arising from their respective sectors and how they can work collaboratively in the future to grow their businesses. Subjects discussed included improvements to the process of training, skills, apprenticeships etc including the potential collaboration with educational establishments, and raising the profile of the manufacturing and engineering sector as a whole in Chesterfield.
There was also an update on the Regional Growth Fund, which is available to Chesterfield businesses from funds allocated to both Sheffield City Region and D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnerships to support businesses in the Town to grow and create new jobs.
The input from the businesses that attended the forum will feed directly into the development of the next phase of the Destination Chesterfield delivery Plan which will be launched in March.
The next Chesterfield Manufacturing and Engineering Forum will take place in April. If you are a Chesterfield or North Derbyshire manufacturing or engineering business and would like to register interest in attending or would like to find out more about becoming involved with Destination Chesterfield please e-mail the Destination Chesterfield Manager, Dominic Stevens--