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April 7, 2022 5:16 PM


Time for a radical re-think as Marks and Spencer announces move from the town's market square

Howard Borrell, the Shadow Liberal Democrat spokesman for the Town Centre and Visitor economy, commented about the recent announcement by Marks and Spencer that they will be re-locating to Ravenside.

He felt "it was both a disappointment and a vote of confidence. So many town centres, with much bigger populations than Chesterfield - such as Birkenhead and Bournemouth - have seen their store close completely. Yet here the company has decided to expand and grow their range of products to meet demand, even though it's moving a short distance, to the edge of the Town Centre. However the closure at a key site on the Market Place means that there is now an urgent need to look for new ways to broaden the town's appeal.

The forthcoming town centre regeneration needs now to encompass how best to re-purpose this soon-to-be-empty space and also how to enhance the town's mix. All forms of art, public realm, inventive new markets and festivals, greenery and attractions that appeal to all ages will become essential parts of the package. The council only has control over its own property but it can encourage private owners to charge realistic rents in order to allow start-up businesses to flourish and allow innovative ideas to take root.

The Liberal Democrats recognise that the Council must become the enabler and the facilitator to encourage new initiatives, such as an art co-operative where creative artists have an opportunity to create both a thriving business and a live working attraction for residents and visitors to enjoy. Imagination is needed to create a newly interesting town centre that will draw visitors in.

The nature of town centres, the world over, is changing but, with vision, those same town centres can become a focal point for living, eating and drinking, entertainment and independent shopping. It won't happen overnight but we would do our best to create the right environment for it evolve in a way that has the support of all age groups - including examining ways of making parking costs less off-putting"

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