Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Chesterfield has a Prosperous Year

What a prosperous year Chesterfield has had and our employment figures bear this out. For the first time since records began the town’s unemployment figures fell below the national average in August.

I do believe that this year has been a turning point for the town, with so many developments in the pipeline totally more than £1billion of investment taking place within the Borough over the next 10 years. Much of this investment is already underway with contractors on site at Peak, Chesterfield Waterside and Markham Vale. Following the competition of the first phase of housing at Chesterfield Waterside, 2016 will see work on the exciting second phase begin.

The marketing and hard work during 2015 has paid off, as I believe that Markham Vale Business Park has become the go to destination for national and international investors relocating here and creating hundreds of jobs with more set for next year. I personally find this very exciting for the Chesterfield’s young people as it is giving them more choice and opportunity. Ahead of these exciting developments, Destination Chesterfield has worked hard through the Made in Chesterfield festival to raise awareness of the jobs and careers available in the manufacturing sector so that companies relocating and expanding here have a ready and able workforce now and in the future.

As well as all the developments already underway, hopefully, 2016 will see plans for the former Co-op department store take shape and become a reality. The redevelopment of such an iconic town centre building has the potential to enhance the town’s offering, helping us attract further town investment and make us the go to destination for shoppers and tourists.

There is no doubting the development potential of Chesterfield but it’s also important to recognise what is already here – the hundreds of independent businesses that have weathered the economy and survived and many of these were honoured at the Chesterfield Retail Awards and Food and Drink Awards this year. Both awards were our most successful yet with more nominations received than ever before and each award ceremony larger than the previous year yet still a sell-out. The events are now well established in the town’s social calendar and a great example of the many independent businesses that combine to make Chesterfield such a unique and going places town.

What a great year it’s been Chesterfield, let’s make 2016 even bigger and better. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

New future for Chesterfield Co-op store

More good investment news arrived in Chesterfield recently with the announcement that a planning application has been submitted to turn the former Co-op department store into a £20million hotel, restaurants and leisure development.

I am delighted that the potential of Chesterfield has, once again, been recognised by investors. It is large scale developments in the town centre such as this, coupled with our thriving independent sector, which will help make us a go to destination for shoppers and tourists.

November has been designated the month where we hope to do exactly the same for the town’s manufacturing sector with Made in Chesterfield.  The festival has two aims; to attract manufacturing and engineering companies to invest here and create jobs and to get more youngsters turned onto a career in manufacturing

Last year, Made in Chesterfield only ran for a week however it was credited with introducing more than 400 young people to careers within the sector. Building on this success, this year the festival is running throughout November.

Thanks to partnerships Destination Chesterfield has fostered with schools, companies within the sector, Derbyshire Education Business Partnership, Natwest, Chesterfield College, Derbyshire County Council, Chesterfield Borough Council, Placing Futures and Positive 4 Young People,  this year more young people than ever will discover first-hand the employment opportunities and the number of varied and exciting roles within manufacturing and engineering.

If your school, child or company would like to get involved with Made in Chesterfield, you can view the programme of events here 

Attracting young people to the sector is essential if Sheffield City Region (SCR) is to achieve its vision of developing a Modern Manufacturing and Technology Growth Area. Chesterfield’s Enterprise Zone at Markham Vale is already playing an important role in attracting investment to the area and events like Made in Chesterfield are contributing further in ensuring there is a ready workforce to enable SCR to achieve this vision.

We’re also taking a similar approach to the town’s hospitality sector through the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards. Without a ready workforce proposals for developments such as the Co-op would be a non-starter.

Each year, however, Destination Chesterfield partners with Chesterfield College to showcase the skills of the young people about to enter the hospitality sector. Not only does the College sponsor the awards, it provides the venue for the awards but, most importantly, its own students cater and serve the entire event.

After the success of last year’s awards evening at the College – all superbly catered and served by the students, it came as no surprise that tickets for the 2015 awards sold out weeks before the event, prompting us to increase numbers to the absolute maximum. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Made in Chesterfield

I read an article from job website CV-Library that said almost half of recruiters think that engineering is the hardest sector to place candidates in. The study suggested that engineering roles are the hardest for recruiters to fill, and a separate study highlighted an unrelenting skills shortage across the UK as a whole. And the picture is no different in Chesterfield, yet we have a thriving manufacturing and engineering sector here.
The study illustrated for me, yet again, how essential school leavers are for the future of Chesterfield, especially in the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Locally, we are outperforming the national average with manufacturing representing around 20% of the turnover of Sheffield City Region (SCR), and if we want this continue we need to attract a future workforce.

Recognising this, we hosted a week-long Made in Chesterfield festival last year which was designed to highlight the sector to young people and encourage them to consider a career in it when the leave school. It was hugely successful, introducing more than 400 young people to the sector.

Capitalising on this success, this year, we will be dedicating an entire month – November – to Made in Chesterfield. Expect to hear a lot from engineering and manufacturing companies you probably didn’t even know existed, let alone known what they do, during November. Many have been in Chesterfield for years, providing local jobs.
While unemployment locally now stands at its lowest level for three years, youth unemployment currently stands at 16%. We can all work together to make a difference to this.

We know festivals and initiatives like Made in Chesterfield and the Food and Drink Awards work in bringing together the education and business community; introducing them to each other and identifying career and employment opportunities.

Chesterfield College uses the Food and Drink Awards every year to show off the skills of their talented hospitality students at the awards ceremony. Each year the students not only make the food but also serve it and this year will be no different. It is restaurant quality food and service, adding a unique element to these popular awards. My mouth is already watering thinking of the awards ceremony which is once again being held at the College’s Heart Space Building at the end of October.

It’s important we work together to reduce youth unemployment in Chesterfield. Initiatives like Made in chesterfield and the Food and Drink Awards are just the tip of the iceberg. Young people want a job, a place to live and a thriving social scene and we have all that right here, we just need to open their eyes to it.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Creative Chesterfield

News that part of Paul Cummins’ iconic poppy sculpture could return to its spiritual home of Chesterfield is an opportunity to further put the town on the map if our bid is successful.
As the inspiration for this magnificent sculpture came from Chesterfield library and commemorates the many men who lost their lives in the First World War, it seems only fitting that it returns to its spiritual home if only for a brief time.

As well as showcasing our wonderful town to visitors, the sculpture will also highlight the wealth of artistic talent that has originated and also remains here. Although now living outside the area, Mr Cummins was a Hasland resident and studied at the College. He is not the only artist to receive national acclaim. Ashley Thomas, whose wonderful At Home range is sold in Debenhams’ stores nationally originally hails from the town, as does award winning ceramicist Clare Gage who continues to live here and sell her designs at Libby’s on Chatsworth Road.

The businesses involved in Chesterfield’s digital and creative community are making an important and significant contribution to the local economy and many of the fledgling start-ups in this sector can now be found at Chesterfield College’s fantastic West Studios off Sheffield Road.  Melanie Jackson, the artist responsible for the wonderful Growth sculpture on Horns Bridge is one of the many talented artists, designers and producers based there.
Often when people think of careers in the digital and creative industry they think of logo design or computer games, however this sector permeates virtually every industry, not least manufacturing. Just look at the fantastic Franke Sissons sculpture at Chesterfield Coach Station, which we unveiled during Made in Chesterfield Week last year, for proof if it were needed.

I am delighted Made in Chesterfield, which is being organised once again by Destination Chesterfield and Derbyshire Education Business Partnerships returns in November. 

Last year, during the course of a single week we reached out to more than 400 young people and raised awareness of careers in the manufacturing sector. This year, thanks to the involvement of the digital and creative sector and an entire month devoted to Made activities, we can showcase a greater breadth of careers and, importantly, show that they can follow their creative dreams and make a career out of them, here in Chesterfield. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Chesterfield Powerhouse

Earlier this year the chancellor George Osborne unveiled his vision for creating a 'Midlands Engine', part of the government’s plan for a Northern Powerhouse. I believe, however, that we have already started to lay the foundations of an East Midlands Powerhouse in Chesterfield, not least in our retail sector.

I was delighted that we were able to recognise and honour this thriving sector recently at the Retail Awards.  This year we had many more businesses nominated by the general public as well as some of the faces from last year’s awards returning to defend their titles. Even with a bigger venue this year at the Winding Wheel, the event was still a sell-out showing the huge support and pride in these awards by the business community.

We must not underestimated the power of Chesterfield's retail sector. It is one of our major plus points as a destination. Where other towns and cities are struggling with a growing number of vacant shops, ours offers a vibrant mix of independent and chain retailers and is expanding, which is practically unheard of in today's retail climate. Simply drive along Chatsworth Road or Whittington Moor to see new restaurants, bars and independent shops opening for evidence of this.

For everyone who says Chesterfield’s high street is in decline and dominated by vacant premises and charity shops, I say visit neighbouring towns or even those further afield and you will see this is not the case.

Shopping local, rather than online, in national chain stores or in the out of town retail parks will ensure Chesterfield’s retail sector continues to thrive. Whether you spend pence or pounds, every penny counts when shopping with an independent retailer.  The owners of these business invariably live in the area and plough the money back into our local economy. 

It’s not just the act of spending money that ensures our retail success but also our ability to 'talk up' the town both here and outside it. Rather than putting the town down and bemoaning it, tell people how great it is. How many other towns honour their market traders and independent traders each year? In fact, one of the oldest, Ibbotson's took the titles of not only market trader of the year but also the prestigious Retailer of the Year at the Retail Awards.

Now in its 71st year of trading, Ibbotson’s is weathering the difficult financial climate and adapting the business for a new retail era, making them, I think, a real retail powerhouse. Now that' something to shout about, don't you think?

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Charity begins at Chesterfield

At a recent Chesterfield Champions breakfast I was heartened to hear the news that a MacMillan Cancer Centre is to be built at Chesterfield Royal Hospital.

This is a real feather in the cap for the area as it brings together the cancer care and treatment that is currently provided in different locations across the hospital site. There, unfortunately, can be few people in Chesterfield whose lives have not been blighted by this horrible disease, either their own or those of family members or friends. Every year, 1,500 people in North and North East Derbyshire are told that they have cancer.

Costing £8.9 million the new centre is relying on £2.5m of charitable donations to make it a reality. I have no doubt the MacMillan Cancer Centre will open in 2016 as planned as the generosity of Cestrefeldians is renowned. You simply have to look at other charitable causes in the area, large and small – Ashgate Hospicecare, Kids ‘n’ Cancer and Chesterfield Fundraising Group for Cancer Research UK to name but a few, who all tirelessly fundraise and make a big difference to our community.

Fundraising isn’t easy. It involves lots of time, energy and determination, often relying on the goodwill of volunteers, which is very much the case for the Chesterfield Fundraising Group for Cancer Research UK, which is entirely run and managed by volunteers. It recently received Fundraiser of the Year award at the Derbyshire Times Pride Awards, which just goes to show that the old adage ‘charity begins at home’ really does apply in Chesterfield.

It is heartening to see the business community supporting charities, either through the fundraising efforts of their own staff or from the company as a whole. Most recently Franke Sissons hosted a fundraising dinner dance which raised £1250 for local cancer charities Nenna Kind and Ashgate Hospicecare.

It is this goodwill and camaraderie between both residents and businesses that makes Chesterfield such a friendly town, something visitors often remark on when they visit. We have a real’ in it together’ attitude that has enables us to weather storms and emerge stronger for it and the fact we have £1 billion of development happening in the Borough over the next 10 years is testament to this.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

New Market for Chesterfield and Retail Awards Host Announced

The weather has finally turned warmer and the lighter nights are here. Chesterfield is beginning to blossom once again and in more ways than one.

While the floral displays in and round the town have come to life so too has tourism. There’s nothing like warm weather and sunshine to put us in the holiday mood. This is a great opportunity for Chesterfield to capitalise on its proximity to the Peak District as well as spectacular visitor attractions like Chatsworth House, Hardwick Hall and Bolsover Castle.
However, it’s important Chesterfield doesn’t become a place that people pass through in order to reach their tourist destinations. The town, in its own right, has so much to offer tourists not least the crooked spire, museum, Queen’s Park and one of the UK’s top five hotels – Casa.

Chesterfield Visitor Information Centre is doing a great job welcoming visitors to the town. So much so that it is a finalist in the prestigious VisitEngland Awards for Excellence2015.  Soon the town will have yet another reason for people to visit us - a monthly artisan market which will take place on the last Sunday of every month.

The market will give people, both locals and those from outside the area, more reason to visit Chesterfield on Sunday. The increased footfall will benefit other retailers in the town. The popularity of online shopping and out of town shopping centres means it is more important than ever to support our town centre retailers. And the level of support for Chesterfield’s retailers is incredibly pleasing, if the nominations for the 2015 Chesterfield Retail Awards are anything to go by.

You nominated in your droves, giving us an incredibly strong field of contenders for the 15 awards. The awards have now become a fixture in Chesterfield’s calendar. I’m delighted that Peak FM breakfast show presenters James Summers and BeckyMeasures have agreed to host the awards at the Winding Wheel on Wednesday 24June. I am sure their big personalities will make the 2015 awards an event to remember and one I am personally looking forward to, very much like summer.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

£1 billion of investment for Chesterfield over the next 10 years

£1 billion of investment for Chesterfield over the next 10 years

We regularly hear about new investment in Chesterfield; whether this is Markham Vale, Peak Resorts, Chesterfield Waterside or by one of our expanding local  businesses. But recently, at the Celebrate Chesterfield event it was calculated that the total amount of money being invested in the town over the next 10 years is actually £1 billion. There was an audible intake of breath in the room, when that level of investment was announced, proving once again that Chesterfield is punching well and truly above its weight.

This investment will bring lots of homes, leisure facilities, restaurants and businesses, etc to Chesterfield which,  importantly, will create jobs, 1000s of them in fact. With jobs comes more spending power in our local economy- Everyone in our town will benefit. The future for Chesterfield is very exciting, however we must not lose sight of what we have now. It is important to support the businesses that are already within the town and help them continue to thrive so they will be around to reap the benefits of the £1 billion of future investment.

The annual Chesterfield Retail Awards organised by Destination Chesterfield, are a great example of how we strive to celebrate and support businesses in Chesterfield. I am delighted to see that so many people have got behind the awards once again and nominated their favourite retailers. We’ll be announcing the winners of the Chesterfield Retail Awards in June.

However, it is my view that every one of Chesterfield’s retailers should be commended.   By way of example we heard at the Celebrate event that plans for the former Co-op building are in the pipeline and I, like everyone else, look forward to seeing an important  building brought back into use.

Whether or not you nominated a business for the Retail Awards my plea to you, to keep Chesterfield thriving now, is for you to Shop Local. Independent retailers in the town centre, along Chatsworth Road and Whittington Moor have everything you could ever need. You name it - fruit and vegetables from the market, gifts, clothing, furniture, jewellery, we really do have it all. Our town’s mix of retailers – independents alongside high street chains, are what sets us apart from other high streets. We have variety that others are lacking and this is the reason why people travel from the Peak District, Buxton, Dronfield, South Sheffield and even Leicestershire to shop here. But let’s make sure we support our independent retailers. Chesterfield can enjoy its modern awakening now, not in ten years’ time.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Celebrating Chesterfield

It’s that time of year again, time to celebrate and look back on everything that Chesterfield has achieved.

All too often we hear about the good news in isolation and it can be overshadowed by the bad which means it can be forgotten in the melee. That’s why Destination Chesterfield’s annual Celebrate event is so important.

This will be our third Celebrate Chesterfield event and takes place on Wednesday 25 March at the Winding Wheel. Last year was standing room only, however the stream of good news delivered by the Destination Chesterfield Team, left us all uplifted!

This year, Celebrate will be no different. We’ve made a point of building on last year’s success and striving to be even better in 2015.  In June we’ll be welcoming again the hugely successful Retail Awards and the Food and Drink Awards in October. We’ll also be celebrating our thriving manufacturing sector with Made in Chesterfield in November. This year it will be running over two weeks and will bring even more young people, teachers and businesses together.

It’s important to me that the young people who live here know that there is a future for them and marketing Chesterfield and its successful business sectors is crucial to this. We have a number of thriving industries and there is huge employment opportunities in all of them. The Manufacturing sector in particular is telling us they want apprentices now!

The hospitality industry is set to boom also. In the same week it was announced that not only was Chesterfield home to one of the top five hotels in the UK – Casa, but also that the outskirts of the town was to be the location for the £400 million Peak Development.

Whether you’re a resident, investor, business or visitor, there are exciting times ahead for Chesterfield. However, we must not forget about the past and present. So much has been achieved since we launched Destination Chesterfield in 2011 and I for one am looking forward to sharing the town’s numerous successes at Celebrate.

You too can share in the success. The event is free to attend, you simply need to register at

Friday, 2 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Now we’re in the New Year it’s easy to get excited as we have so much to look forward to as a town in 2015. However, I think it’s important to remember all that has been achieved in 2014, so allow me to give you all a quick reminder… I hope that you will be impressed!

Amongst many things this year, we’ve seen the installation of the new ‘Growth’ sculpture on Hornsbridge Roundabout which enhances one of our key gateways and best of all did not cost our town a penny as it was kindly funded by Barratt Homes and ERDF funding.

We also had the great news in February that University of Derby will soon be establishing a campus here in Chesterfield. This opens up so many opportunities to young people in the town and surrounding areas.

In April, work started on the first homes at the much anticipated Chesterfield Waterside project and we’ll be welcoming first residents in 2015. As one of the largest regeneration schemes in the country, this first stage means everything for Chesterfield.

The town’s first ever Retail Awards were held in June celebrating and recognising our thriving retail scene. The awards recognise Chesterfield’s talent in the retail sector and shows why we still have one of the best town centre shop occupancy rates in the country.
October saw a celebration of our town’s talent in the food and drink industry at the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards 2014, which was double the size of last year’s ceremony. TV Chef Ainsley Harriott was once again a hit as our host for the evening. There must be few people in Chesterfield without a selfie with him on their phone!

More recently, Chesterfield’s St Mary’s High School was recognised as one of the top comprehensives in the UK in The Sunday Times, and the town’s first manufacturing festival was hailed a success. 

The Mayor and Mayoress of Chesterfield unveiled the new sculpture outside Chesterfield Coach Station, another key gateway, to kick off the Made in Chesterfield Week (10-14 November). The sculpture, kindly donated by Franke Sissons, is a shining example of what can be achieved when young people, apprentices, and businesses work together.

The festival highlighted the thriving Manufacturing and Engineering sector and the many companies based here in our town who not only operate nationally but internationally. Most importantly the events throughout the week highlighted a career option to many youngsters who may not have considered it, proving there is so much opportunity, ability and passion right here in Chesterfield

With all that and more, what a successful year 2014 was? We’re certainly off to head start for a good 2015! I hope you will join me in celebrating and recognizing our achievements properly on 25 March at the Celebrate Chesterfield 2015 event.