Key stakeholders from across Derby have thrown their support behind plans for the £200m regeneration of the Becketwell area of the city.
An outline planning application was submitted at the end of August after contracts were exchanged between Leeds-based developer St James Securities and Derby City Council on the former Debenhams department store in Derby and surrounding sites including the former Pennine Hotel, NCP Car Park and Laurie House on Colyear Street.
This followed a public consultation event, which took place back in March, generating 95% of positive responses to the scheme.
Now, residents, business owners and key stakeholders have been invited to comment on the scheme ahead of a planning decision which is expected to be made before the end of the year.
To date, more than twice as many letters of support have been received in favour of the revitalisation of an area which has long been derelict, attracting crime and anti-social behaviour.
Phase one of the regeneration scheme comprises of plans for 342 Build to Rent apartments on the site of the former Debenhams store on Victoria Street and a new public square on the site of the current United Reform Church.
The residential development will comprise of two buildings, the tallest of which will extend up to 19 storeys in height. This building will contain 246 apartments over a ground floor café and restaurant overlooking the new square.
The smaller building will house 96 apartments with a convenience store at ground floor fronting Victoria Street. In response to local feedback, the building has been carefully designed to retain the curve of the existing buildings to the Victoria Street frontage.
The outline planning application is supported by a request to include a range of other complementary uses of the site, including up to 25,000 sq m of new grade A offices, innovation centre and leisure to complement the residential and a planned multi-storey car park, with a smaller courtyard public square called Summerhill Yard to reflect that part of the site’s historic street name.
Business leaders and other key stakeholders have been unequivocal in their support for the scheme, citing the benefits that a revitalisation of this area of the city centre would bring for the surrounding businesses and community:
John Forkin, managing director of Marketing Derby:
“The derelict site of the former Duckworth Square is arguably Derby’s largest eyesore and has become a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour. This is a one-off opportunity to tackle the single biggest regeneration priority for the city, and if plans are not approved it is likely it will remain derelict and neglected for decades.
“It is imperative that Derby continues to revitalise the centre to deliver Derby City Council’s Masterplan. The proposed Becketwell regeneration improves vibrancy, brings derelict buildings and vacant land back into use and supports the city centre economy, whilst relieving pressure on green belt land.
“There are no other viable, fundable proposals that could bring about the transformation this site so desperately needs.”
Kevin McGrath, managing partner of the Smith Partnership:
“St James Securities have put forward an exciting vision for Derby’s longest-standing and most in need, regeneration site. Whilst the outline element gives a flavour of what could happen, the detailed submission for close to 300 apartments on the Debenhams site is a concrete plan that represents a major step forward for Becketwell.”
Andrew Bock, director of developers CWC:
“For in excess of 10 years we have had to cope in an area that has been in decline ever since the Debenhams department store closed.
These proposals represent the best chance to regenerate this immediate area and offer our buildings, and neighbouring buildings, the best chance to attract new tenants and encourage the population of Derby back into the area.”
David Nelson, senior partner at accountants Smith Cooper:
“The Becketwell area has become a mecca for anti-social behaviour, feels unsafe and is a very poor advertisement for a City Centre that is trying to regenerate itself and attract investment. The proposed development would, I believe, breathe much needed life into the City Centre and hopefully convince future investment.
“Young talented professional people who work in and around the City Centre increasingly are looking for good quality living accommodation – Becketwell can provide for that, bringing additional discretionary spend into the City Centre and have the consequential knock on for shops, restaurants etc.
“If Derby is to fully optimise it’s potential it needs to embrace development of this size and magnitude.”
Sajeeda Rose, chief executive of D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership who are providing £8.1 million in Local Growth Fund investment funding for the Becketwell project:
“At D2N2 we are very supportive of proposals that will help to stimulate the local economy through the development of housing and employment led growth. Through the ambitious plans that are being set out in this outline planning application we see the Becketwell development as being able to facilitate that ambition.”
Dave Bullock, managing director of Compendium Living, developers of the Castleward scheme in Derby
“There is no doubt that that part of the city centre has been crying out for new life and investment for many years. We have been working in the city for nearly ten years now, and it is a site that we have looked at a number of times. It is very heartening for Derby that an investor has the vision, appetite and capacity to take on such a challenging strategic site, and I am convinced that SJS’s design approach, with its local influences and bold city vernacular, will prove transformational, and that the mixed uses proposed will bring a significant economic injection to a part of the city that has been crying out for it for years.”
Joan Travis, chair of the Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust
“We have been acutely aware of the degenerative state of the area in the immediate vicinity of the former theatre building and of the need for development as time also has an adverse effect. The Trustees welcome and appreciate the genuine efforts by St James Securities to produce a viable plan to breathe new life into the area.
“Naturally, we do not see eye to eye in every detail, and there is always considerable room for discussion and compromise; but the Trust would be much happier to see the run-down neighbourhood being improved when it begins the theatre restoration; as SJS would feel likewise if the Hippodrome, no longer in its damaged state, were on the boundary of its new development.
The Derby Civic Society have raised objections to the scheme, with their main concerns focusing on the location of the tall building.
Commenting on the feedback received to date, Paul Morris, director of St James Securities, said:
“It is heartening to see so many of the city’s key stakeholders, business owners and members of the public take the time to submit letters of support for the scheme and we are pleased to see that our enthusiasm for the project is shared by the wider Derby community.
“We will deliver a truly comprehensive and much-needed major regeneration scheme for Derby city centre, which promises to be an energising force for the area.
“We take every comment seriously and will do our utmost to address any concerns that have been shown about the scheme. Many comments alluded to the enormous potential of the development to revitalise the area – we will do everything possible to make sure the reality lives up to the potential of our plan.
“We are hopeful of a successful determination to this Application by the end of 2019, which will enable us to make a start on site during 2020.”
The work on the demolition of the former Debenhams building started last month and is set to be completed in May 2020. Construction work on the first phase of development set to commence in 2020.
St James Securities have completed many successful projects of this scale, including St Paul’s Place in Sheffield and the award-winning Round Foundry in Leeds.