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Words & Images: Paul Chapman

Chesterfield is my home, it’s the place I live, moving in over 20 years ago now, it’s where my family go to school, walk, ride, shop, etc etc. I love it. Moving from Nottingham where I lived previously it’s a breath of fresh air.

It's easy to be a bit overly critical of our town, 'there are too many empty shops, parking is expensive' etc but look around and I don’t think we’re in such a bad place.

Three things have crossed my radar recently, the Celebrate Chesterfield event back in March, Ghost Town - a heartfelt letter from a local resident about the state of our town centre and the recent news that Chesterfield tops a travel guide as the best place in the England to bring up a family.

Celebrate Chesterfield: An annual event, hosted by Destination Chesterfield, targeting positive news and change, and sharing this news with the business community. Ok, it’s a chance for everyone to pat themselves on the back, but it does show that we are doing well.

Dignitaries and business leaders took to the podium and told us how well we’re doing; new major businesses signing up to space at Markham Vale, major investment secured for Staveley, we have good housing stock, the college scored ‘good’ by OFSTED, people relocating to Chesterfield where they can easily work from home and no longer need to be located in the big Cities. Many more positives continued to be celebrated throughout the morning.

Ghost Town: In March I received a letter from a local resident referring to Chesterfield as a

‘ghost town’. It was written by someone who clearly has a deep love for the town that has been their lifelong home, however they've seen the town deteriorate to a point they feel something needs to

be said.

I plan to meet up with the author and cover this in more detail in a later edition, but for now I read through the points and considered how someone might feel given the state of the high street and town centre.

There has been a lot of change, and that's inevitable. The use of town centres is changing, major retailers now target an online audience and move out of town, and the ease with which we can order the weekly shop and have it delivered to our door is massively convenient. But that results in a drop in footfall, people simply don’t go out to shop like they used to.

As a result, many feel that the place simply isn’t what it was. But there is an army of small independent businesses that want to do something different, to create an experience, to welcome us warmly into their businesses giving a level of service that makes us return. Small retail businesses run by passionate people alongside great places to eat, drink, socialise - with the major chains on the edges of town with a handy carpark outside… sound familiar?

We all have a role to play in helping these businesses to be the change – use them. Seek out the little shops, (visit support them and spend your money – success breeds success and more businesses will come!

As I say, we’ll do more on this, we have some questions about how we deal with certain issues but I honestly think there are many people who really care about creating a town we can be proud of.

No 2: The UK's second-best place to live. Our town has been recognised by travel guide website, as the best town in England, and the 2nd best in the UK to raise a family, losing out only to Aberdeen, thanks to our ‘affordable and appealing houses and excellent schooling options.’ ranked the towns and cities based on property prices and average salaries (house price-to-income ratio), education and safety, plus access to green spaces, transport links and family-friendly attractions.

My first reaction to this is, don’t tell everyone! I honestly believe it’s the people who live here that make our community special – not the property prices or the schools, although it helps! My wife was telling me earlier, “I walked down Chatsworth Road on a beautiful day this week and virtually everyone looked me in the eye and said ‘morning, lovely day…’ or similar. I popped into Dotique, Fresh Ideas and Libby’s … and came back with a sense of wellbeing.”

So, let’s keep smiling, being friendly, letting people out of junctions, it’s things like that that makes Chesterfield great and makes it a better place to live!


I’ll just leave it there.

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