It is a momentous day in the life of any building project, especially one of the top 50 biggest regeneration projects in the UK – first announced eight years ago.
But finally, the diggers are on site down at Chesterfield Waterside. The £340m scheme has kicked off with the start of construction of 19 houses, all pre-sold to Great Places Housing Association.
It is hoped they mark the beginning of up to 10 years of work to deliver more than 300 private homes, 30,000 sqm of office, business and industrial space; shops, restaurants and leisure uses around a new canal basin on the former Trebor/Bassett factory site and a new stretch of canal.
The 40-acre site, adjacent to the station and straddling the River Rother and Chesterfield Canal, will form a major new part of the town centre.
The scheme is a public-private partnership between Chesterfield Borough Council and developers Urbo.
Peter Swallow, Urbo director, said: “If you look at regeneration schemes throughout the UK that have disappeared, the fact that Waterside is on track speaks volumes for the partnership between the public and private sector.
“The houses are the first investment in this site and should pave the way for the private housing which forms the bulk of the site. We will hopefully be on site with them early next year.
“In 2008, banks withdrew completely from the commercial property market and that’s still the case to a large extent.
“There’s also the empty rates policy which a speculative builder could face and because it’s a buyers’ market, occupiers want a discount.
“In a recession, businesses don’t invest in new locations and even successful ones hoard cash rather than spend it.
“They want to be confident of a sustained upward trend in the economy. Now, hopefully, we are witnessing it.”
A £3.1m loan from Sheffield City Region and D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnerships has been made to build a new canal link and complete environmental improvements around the canal basin.