Buxton groups back suggestion of council buying town's shopping centre

Plans for High Peak Borough Council to buy Buxton’s Springs shopping centre and help breathe new life into the high street have been welcomed by town groups.
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Buxton has been awarded £6.6 million from the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) to help revitalise the town centre, with High Peak Borough Council also investing a further £4.2m.

However, with little progress being seen in recent months, some locals have concerns that the town will lose the money if it is not spent, and want a proposal for the council to buy the shopping centre to go ahead.

Lesley Caddy, chair of Buxton Town Team, said: “The Future High Street Fund is a brilliant opportunity for Buxton as it will see the town benefit from a huge sum of money.

Vision Buxton and Buxton Town Team want to see High Peak Borough Council buy The Springs shopping centre as part of the Future High Streets Fund.Vision Buxton and Buxton Town Team want to see High Peak Borough Council buy The Springs shopping centre as part of the Future High Streets Fund.
Vision Buxton and Buxton Town Team want to see High Peak Borough Council buy The Springs shopping centre as part of the Future High Streets Fund.

“Last year High Peak Borough Council spoke about buying The Springs shopping centre but since then nothing has happened.

“If the money does not get spent in the next 18 months the town will lose out.

“We feel helpless as there is a lot at stake but no sense of urgency from the council to push forward with these proposals.”

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The Springs shopping centreThe Springs shopping centre
The Springs shopping centre

The FHSF area includes Spring Gardens, the railway station forecourt, Station Road, the Quadrant and Hardwick Street.

The plans for spending the money include improving pedestrian links to and from Spring Gardens and the railway station, increasing residential and office use of empty buildings and upper floors and improving the town’s broadband provision.

Other ideas include increasing electric vehicle charging and cycle hire opportunities as well as improving the rear view of Spring Gardens buildings and providing accessible toilets.

Roddie MacLean, chair of Vision Buxton, thinks the proposal for the council to buy The Springs shopping centre is a good idea.

He said: “The council buying The Springs would make a great deal of sense.

“With the council as the new willing owners, development could happen much easier for the site.

“The Springs needs to integrate with the town centre and it has so much potential.

“If the council owned the land they could be quite radical with their approach in how they revamped the site.

“The car park and the back of the shopping centre towards the station needs the most work but under council control step-free access could be installed and further down the line the land by the River Wye could be improved.”

He also thinks if the council did buy the shopping centre they should reintroduce a loop back into Spring Gardens.

He said: “Currently now you walk through The Springs and either end up in the disabled car park or you have to double back on yourself and come back to Spring Gardens.

“The passageway through when Marks and Spencer was open created a vital link for shoppers.”

As there is little food or leisure use in the town after 5pm, Roddie said it becomes an evening ‘dead zone’ and along with a high number of charity and discount stores, it therefore appears as a low quality offer.

He said: “Buxton is a tourist destination but it should also be a shopping and entertainment destination venue too and there is so much room for improvement to make it a better shopping experience for everyone.

“Nothing has happened for a while now as the pandemic halted plans but now something really needs to be happening.

“The space could be brought back to a proper purpose which would see investors taking on empty units and bringing more shoppers into the town again.”

As well as the FHSF, High Peak Borough Council has also secured nearly £1 million of Heritage Action Zone funding which will be used to upgrade shop fronts and repair commercial buildings. Roddie added: “Buxton is on the edge of something great and we just need to make sure the council is thinking of what will benefit the whole town the most in the coming years.”

And Colin Beswick, Assistant Centre Manager for The Springs, said: “As the shopping centre is a pension fund it is always up for sale and can be bought at any time.

“I’m just like the rest of the town waiting to see what happens as I haven’t been told anything yet.

“So for now we will just keep carrying on like normal.”

High Peak Borough Council said a full update on the Future High Streets Fund will be sent to executive members at the end of November.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The Springs forms an important part of the successful Future High Streets Fund bid and the executive will be considering options later this year.

“The council is not in a position to comment further on the details until after that meeting has taken place.”

High Peak MP Robert Largan is currently asking residents for their views on how the money should be spent.

He added: “This money is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Buxton.

“It’s important that we get it right and don’t waste the money on councillors’ pet projects.

“High Peak Borough Council needs to listen carefully to local residents and businesses when fine tuning their proposals. Tell me what you think and I will take the results to the council.”