A new report by Buxton Civic Association has thrown the spotlight on the town’s forgotten ‘grot spots’ - neglected or forgotten areas of the town in need of some TLC.
The group believes broken walls, uneven pavements and abandoned buildings are detracting from the town’s potential, at a time when £50m is being spent on The Crescent development.
Entitled ‘Vulnerable Places and Spaces’, the report aims to identify and involve the community of Buxton in enjoying and protecting places which need attention.
Simon Fussell, business development manager for Buxton Civic Association (BCA), said: “Buxton has great potential and some wonderful opportunities and we are in a transition period which can really put us on the map as the place to be, but at the minute there are parts of the town that are letting us down.
“We all know about the problems on Fairfield Road and the issues with the High Path, but it is not just the big issues that need sorting.
“If £50m is being invested in restoring the Crescent and creating a five-star hotel and spa then we need to ensure that the rest of the town looks the part.
And many of the issues are small and should be easy to put right; broken paving stones, walls with missing coping stones. Putting barriers around them might satisfy health and safety, but it doesn’t solve the problems.”
Some of the problem areas highlighted include the old toilet site on Water Street, which is described in the report as ‘an eyesore in the centre of a prime tourist zone’.
Following a meeting with BCA members in April, High Peak Borough Council said this is a neglected space which they currently have no plans for.
BCA said it would welcome the opportunity to lease and develop the site in partnership with the council and other interested parties, especially due to its prominent position next to the opera house.
There are plenty of other smaller projects around the town too which need a bit of TLC, such as the wall outside the Palace Hotel. Despite plastic barriers being put up in June, they have since disappeared and the wall continues to lean.
BCA fear heavy rain could further destabilise the wall, leading to its sudden collapse across the pavement and onto the road.
Another similar problem area is the damaged wall on the Market Place, which BCA members believe gives a bad first impression to visitors getting off the bus.
Simon said: “It doesn’t make sense to me personally that these things haven’t been fixed. We understand the difficult position that the council is in, given the current austerity programme. But we feel it is important to highlight these problems because the longer they are left, the costlier it will become for the council to fix, so repairs could get pushed back again as there is a limited budget.”
The wall on Fountain Street has been highlighted as an area of risk as it is a well-used link road between the Market Place and Pavilion Gardens and seen by many people.
BCA members would also like more focus placed on the derelict cottage at Poole’s Cavern car park, and the council is currently investigating ownership.
Simon added: “There are so many wonderful and active groups in Buxton, such as the town team - look at the fantastic work that they are doing on The Slopes - Vision Buxton, Transition Buxton and the Buxton Group, who are all working really hard as volunteers in the town’s best interests. Perhaps the way forward is for the council to work with these groups on a more formal basis to keep our spaces and places well maintained and looked after.”
Responding to the concerns raised, High Peak Borough Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Tony Kemp, said: “I’m pleased to see that the civic association does acknowledges the work High Peak Borough Council and partners have done to bring The Crescent and Thermal Spa Project to fruition - but it is by no means the only investment project and related work the council has led in Buxton and has certainly not resulted in a lack of focus.”
More than 90 per cent of income from the Crescent has come from external funding, which Cllr Kemp explained had not put any additional burden on the taxpayer.
He said it ensured Buxton was ‘punching far above its weight compared to most market towns’.
Cllr Kemp, who is also executive councillor for tourism and regeneration, continued: “The council has worked hard to protect Buxton’s historic legacy and prepare it for the future. “I am pleased to note that recent tourism figures showed a direct visitor spend of just over £60m, a rise of 4.3 per cent over the last 12 months, reflecting the success of our investment is paying off - against a background of decreasing council resources as the government seeks to bring public spending within the national income.
“It’s far from true to suggest the council is only spending money on the Crescent. Ongoing projects to which we have committed substantial funds include the Octagon (nearly £4m), extensive work on the Serpentine weir (perhaps £30k/40k) and remedial work on the foundations of the opera house (£400k). It is fine to suggest we are ‘overlooking’ smaller but important projects - but council resources can only stretch so far.”
Cllr Kemp praised the enthusiastic and passionate members of volunteer groups who put Buxton at the heart of their projects, and said the council would be more than happy to meet with the groups to develop a shared plan to address some of the issues raised. He added: “If they will work positively with us and others we can make Buxton an even more attractive place for residents, visitors and investors.”