Chesterfield is one of many regions across the UK who’re set to see huge economic growth across their region – and ahead of the HS2 Economic Growth Conference we hear from Chesterfield Borough Council on what the opportunities are and how they’re driving to maximise them…

Chesterfield Borough Council welcome HS2 as a ‘game-changer’ for the area

Those of us working in Chesterfield are in no doubt; the combination of a station on the HS2 network and a maintenance depot within the borough is a game-changer for the area. Our strong partnership working developed over many years has been taken to a new level through a common aim of maximising and accelerating the benefits that we know will come from HS2, something which will be further enhanced by the HS2 Economic Growth Conference in November. We can already see how the whole of north Derbyshire and well beyond will be transformed. And we have been putting our hands in our pockets, investing in planning and preparing so we can seize every opportunity to land the jobs, homes and skills on behalf of our communities. There is particular excitement in Chesterfield, because this is a ‘here and now’ opportunity and one we are grasping with both hands.

A platform for growth

The advantage we have in Chesterfield is that HS2 will arrive at an existing and well-connected station at the heart of an existing and thriving economy. So there’s no need for us to wait until the first train arrives in 2033, we are cracking on now to bring forward development, building on the sound platform already in place.

Current services to the station mean Chesterfield is already one of the best connected towns on the UK rail network and this is helping us drive an early programme of interventions and investment to shape a new station quarter that will form a destination as well as dispersal point. This takes place against the backdrop of unprecedented growth for the town, with over £1bn of development planned and in progress.

At the same time, the £400m Peak Resort just outside the town will bring 1,300 new jobs to the area with a first-class leisure and entertainment offer as well as providing a gateway to the Peak District, the second most-visited national park in the world. Again, the first phase is now underway with 5-star visitor accommodation, a university campus, the first in a new line of David Lloyd adrenaline centres and a gateway building catering for day and staying visitors wishing to make the most of their time in this wonderful part of the world.

Our plans for the station also stand to catalyse and benefit from the growth in our further and higher education sector. Chesterfield is already the UK’s first apprentice town and now sets its sights on becoming an established university town. With the highly rated Chesterfield College already home to over 10,000 students and a top 20 UK university – the University of Derby – increasing its presence in the town, we have a platform for demand for a different type of offer to attract and retain students and graduates.

Our education and training strengths will also provide the platform for making the most of the HS2 maintenance depot in Staveley, just a few miles north of Chesterfield station. As well as jobs at the depot and in the related supply chain, we are already seeing an increase in investor interest in adjacent sites and a raising of ambition in terms of the quality of jobs that we wish to bring to the area. Again, our ability to successfully land investors builds on our experience of large and small companies choosing to come to the range of sites on offer, including the huge success of Markham Vale with direct access to the M1.

A vision for change

This platform for growth has helped drive our vision for the ways in which the whole area will be transformed by the arrival of HS2. At the station, we are planning for high quality urban realm bringing homes and jobs into a destination where people will want to work, live, study and play. The station is a key link between the old and the new, between the historic town centre with its famous crooked spire and 12th century open air market, and the modern Waterside development bringing 21st century living along an attractive canal and river corridor. The station will see the town centre grow and also change, bringing more residential and leisure opportunities reflecting the nature of modern and thriving town centres around the world.

As well as a destination, plans for the station will create a first-rate dispersal point, ensuring that the wealth of renowned visitor attractions across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and south Yorkshire are readily accessible by all forms of transport. With around half of HS2 travel due to be made for leisure purposes, our station will provide smooth and seamless onward travel options and form an integral part of our visitor economy ambition of converting our high number of day visitors into overnight stays and repeat business.

At the depot site in Staveley, we see HS2 as the catalyst for development along one of the largest brownfield growth corridors in the country, opening up a new garden village with well over a thousand new homes and a new local centre. Our vision here once again reflects the old and the new, as we seek to bring about a revival in the rich manufacturing heritage of the area alongside the latest innovation and technology at new facilities sitting alongside the HS2 depot.

Growth that benefits our existing communities

In all of this excitement, we are watchful of the ways in which growth can and should benefit local communities that are still recovering from the impact of industrial decline and huge job losses over the past 40 years. Many parts of the borough are within the 10% most deprived in the country, around a fifth of our children live in poverty and the area is the 25th most deprived in the country in terms of health outcomes. The growth for which we are planning therefore needs to be one that can bring about greater resilience in the future and greater investment now in the skills, education and training required to ensure local communities benefit fully.

Our plans are already being shaped by skills providers across the area together with our vibrant business community. Building on existing campaigns like ‘Made in Chesterfield’, we are awakening among a new generation the passion for engineering and manufacturing that has played such an important part of the town’s history. Our ‘HS2 and You’ work has begun in local schools and will extend to the many businesses that stand to benefit from the supply chain opportunities that are already present and those coming on the back of growth across the area.

Team Chesterfield – active partners driving growth

All of this is made possible by strong partnership working, not least through a dedicated HS2 Delivery Board that has driven activity over the last couple of years. Partners share a strong commitment to maximise the benefits of the growth that will flow from HS2 and are increasing prepared to take a lead role on behalf of the public sector in order to ensure opportunities are not lost.

Continuing those partnerships and creating new relationships will be vital to unlocking the full potential for our region – and our involvement within the HS2 Economic Growth Conference in November is just one example of how we’re engaging with the industry to ensure collaboration is a priority.

Chesterfield considers itself far more than a footnote among the HS2 driven growth stories up and down the country. Rather, this is a place where a solid platform means we are already starting to realise the benefits, years before the first HS2 train arrives. With this in place, we have significant ambition to accelerate the town’s already high-speed growth for the benefit of our existing and future communities.

The HS2 Economic Growth Conference, supported by HS2 Ltd, is set to bring together senior leaders from across both the public and private sector to maximise the development and regeneration opportunities which HS2 can bring to unlock economic growth. Book now >