‘Pocket park’ plan to improve ‘tired old lady’ Derbyshire town

today26 August 2022 3

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Councillors have approved the £1 million overhaul of three plots in a Derbyshire town which has been dubbed a “tired old lady”. At a South Derbyshire District Council meeting the authority’s own plans for the widespread regeneration of Swadlincote town centre were unanimously approved.

Councillors said they were excited at the opportunity to regenerate several sites in the town which were not making the most of their potential and had a poor visual impact. The scheme will see the demolition of the indoor market site in Midland Road to be turned into into a car park and event space; the demolition of two properties virtually opposite the indoor market on the corner of Midland Road and Civic Way for a further car park; and another car park and “pocket park” on the former Sabine’s Yard area off Belmont Street.

Overall, the town centre redevelopment would create 96 public parking spaces. Cllr Trevor Southerd, deputy leader, said at this week’s meeting: “This is absolutely fantastic, I am excited by this, it makes Swadlincote an even more attractive place to visit, it is even more good news.

How car parking would be divided across the land in Swadlincote town centre under the plans
How car parking would be divided across the land in Swadlincote town centre under the plans

“The sites attract anti-social behaviour issues at the moment and I am really, really excited to see this new events venue, I can’t wait to see theatre and films and whatever else there.” Cllr Kevin Richards, leader of the authority, said the current Bank House and Bretby View buildings on the corner of Midland Road and Civic Way were an “eyesore” which were “unstable and need knocking down”.

He said: “This is another gateway into Swadlincote town centre and will hopefully increase footfall in Swadlincote and increase the economic development of Swadlincote. It is part of the overall redevelopment of the town centre along with the Delph and I can’t wait to see it happen.”

Cllr Amy Wheelton said that the proposals would introduce more free parking into the town centre, with the council one of few to retain free parking. Cllr Steve Taylor said: “Members are quite right to be excited. We have taken a good look at the Bank House and Bretby View and unfortunately there isn’t really any future use there, perhaps there used to be but due to several extensions it has no real value left and it is now beyond the pale.”

A birds eye view of the proposed changes including the 'Lightpark' replacing the former indoor market
A birds eye view of the proposed changes including the ‘Lightpark’ replacing the former indoor market

At the meeting on August 23, Cllr Lisa Brown called the project “tremendous” and said there was “very little of merit” left for the proposed buildings set for demolition, concluding “bring it on”. Most of the project is being paid for with business rates retained by the district council through a trial in which it kept 100 per cent of the cash gathered from local companies, instead of it going to central Government.

Kevin Stackhouse, the council’s strategic director for corporate resources, said that this meant Swadlincote and South Derbyshire businesses were paying for the regeneration projects. Steve Baker, the council’s corporate asset manager, told a meeting earlier this year that here was an 80-foot-deep mine shaft on the Bank House/Bretby View site which would cost £100,000 to fill and cap.

However he said that this would “help future development on the site” and that “if and when we sell it we will get more for it.” He said the Bank House and Bretby View site had attracted anti-social behaviour and that the indoor market site had a “pigeon infestation”.

The Bank House and Bretby View site on the corner of Midland Road and Civic Way in Swadlincote
The Bank House and Bretby View site on the corner of Midland Road and Civic Way in Swadlincote, which will be cleared to make way for the development

The former indoor market, which became used as a council staff car park, has been out of use since the start of the pandemic and used for storage of authority equipment. It too has seen anti-social behaviour and Cllr Wheelton had previously said that the site was unattractive and unwelcoming, and that she would not want to walk past it at night.

Cllr Mick Mulgrew had said: “Swadlincote is widely regarded as the centre of South Derbyshire, but she is a tired old lady now.” The former indoor market in Midland Road would have its roof removed and the site turned into an event venue called the “Light Park” for food fairs, concerts, open air film screenings, silent raves and beer gardens.

The site, built in 1984, would also return to use as a car park with 33 spaces. It would be dubbed the “Light Park” because lighting would be attached to what are currently roof brackets for the indoor market – which closed in 2019. The route from Midland Road past the library to the bus station would be resurfaced and given improved lighting.

A 45-space car park will be created on the site of Bank House and Bretby View, which would be accompanied by CCTV and lights activated by sensors in a bid to dissuade anti-social behaviour. Sabine’s Yard, currently an area of fenced-off derelict land last used a decade ago, would be turned into an urban “pocket park” with children’s play equipment, trees, wildflowers and other plants. It would also become home to an 18-space car park.

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