Blueprint to boost Buxton

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SHOPPING tsar Mary Portas could be working her magic for Buxton’s retailers if a bid by civic leaders gets the go-ahead.

Vision Buxton, Buxton Civic Association, The Buxton Group and Transition Buxton, known as the Pilot Group, have joined forces to prepare a bid to become one of 12 “Portas Pilots” – towns which will test out some of the recommendations made by Mary Portas in a government commissioned report aimed at reviving the country’s high streets and town centres.

The Portas Review, which was published in December, contains 28 recommendations of initiatives which could be tried at local and national level, including a number of High Street Pilots. The 12 towns chosen for the pilots will share a pot of £1 million to help turn them around. And as well as the cash boost, the self-styled queen of shops and the Government will be on hand to offer help and support to the winning towns.

Supported by High Peak Borough Council, the Pilot Group has drawn up a list of ten key points to focus on and they are now seeking the views of local residents in preparation for submitting the bid by the end of the month.

As part of the plans, the pilot group’s suggestions include: investing in the market; smartening up Spring Gardens, establishing Buxton as England’s Premiere Spa Town and developing a neighbourhood plan for the town centre. At the heart of it all will be a Town Team - with suggestions being sought for who should be involved.

Roddie MacLean, a director of Vision Buxton, said: “We want to improve Buxton. We’d like to improve the vibrancy of Buxton, not just the shops but the whole experience.

“One initiative is to try and draw all these things together because people coming for one aspect of Buxton don’t necessarily take advantage of any other aspects.”

He added that people who visited the Pavilion Gardens for the day, for example, may not visit Spring Gardens, so the idea was to bring all the parts of Buxton together as a whole to give visitors a wider experience and encourage increased footfall on the high street, which would in turn regenerate the town.

However, the pilot group is keen to hear any other suggestions, feedback and views from any interested parties in preparation for submitting the final bid by March 30.

“Feedback is hugely important,” Mr MacLean added.

“We need to get people’s views on who should be involved in that and we need to get as wide as possible spread of views on what needs to be done.”

Views on the bid can be emailed to pilotgroup@buxtontownteam.org.uk by March 14. Feedback from interested parties will help to shape the final bid, which has to be submitted by March 30.

The ten points drawn up by the group are:

1) To develop a ‘Town Team’ to drive improvement. Then, as part of the bid or beyond, it is suggested the Town Team should:

2) Undertake a Retail Investment Campaign to improve the shopping mix and offer in Buxton.

3) Support a new consumer marketing campaign to promote Buxton to the 200,000 residents within a 30-minute, off-peak, drive.

4) Invest in the Market. Participate in National Markets Week and take a fresh look at the role, location, look, content, management and promotion of the remaining street market and decide how best to make the most of the entrepreneurs and incubator opportunities that markets represent.

5) Establish a modern way finding scheme – to provide a stronger, more legible visitor experience and reconnect the town’s mosaic of retail, cultural and historic quarters.

6) Smarten up Spring Gardens. Inspired by Vision Buxton’s Community Statement, drive a programme of physical improvement to the spaces and the buildings including public realm enhancements and engagement with landlords to invest in and maintain their properties.

7) Support a programme of outdoor performances, and temporary uses of vacant shops to harness the talents of the town’s creative community and connect the festivals programme with the ‘High Street’ to extend ‘the season’ and animate the public realm.

8) Prepare to establish Buxton as “England’s Premiere Spa Town” by ‘raising our game’ by, for example linking spa, wellbeing and health tourism with our unique location in the Peak District offering visitors the opportunity to combine luxury relaxation with outdoor adventure when the Crescent and Thermal Spa opens for business.

9) Improve Access – Work with the local authorities and transport providers to manage parking and transport for the benefit of businesses, improve ease of movement, increase footfall, and improve the visitor experience.

10) Develop a Neighbourhood Plan for the town centre to ensure the most beneficial use of premises and spaces, complementing the architectural heritage and supporting a thriving town for the long term.