The Scrutiny & Elections Officer explained the various documents that had been presented to Members as part of the review.
The Director of Economic Development, Dragonfly Development Limited (DDL), presented a review of Clowne Town Centre Regeneration Framework, acknowledging the Committee’s original review plan to take each town area in turn. The Framework had originally been commissioned in autumn 2015, and had highlighted a range of public and private interventions that could be made to improve the town centre.
As agreed with Committee, officers had produced a scorecard analysing progress against the various elements of the Framework including in surrounding villages and hamlets. On reflection, the Framework document hadn’t guided development to a great extent within the area. Many elements remained undelivered as the document had been aspirational in nature requiring additional buy-in from Town and Parish Councils to engage in the development plans themselves. Where funding had not been in place, many ideas had been difficult to deliver.
It was noted that the previous Regeneration Frameworks, to some extent, also sat outside a wider strategy for development and there was not a bank of costed projects ready to put forward to support the area. While the intention of the Frameworks had been to lever investment, the lack of costed projects had made them almost impossible to deliver. As there was insufficient evidence base within the document, additional research was now being commissioned in order to evidence and cost the projects that could regenerate the town centre.
Of the six core delivery objectives, only one had been completed, with two objectives (4 & 5) in progress but still requiring significant work. Objectives 1 and 2 required the Clowne Garden Village scheme to progress. Objective 6 was no longer viable.
Of the Stepping Stone projects, none had progressed. The officer noted that pedestrianisation of Mill Street had been trialled during the pandemic but local shop owners had not seen any benefits for the approach and were not keen for it to become a permanent arrangement. While work had taken place on highway improvements, any subsequent work by utility companies had not replicated the surfacing, which had not enabled the works to improve the aesthetics of the highway on Mill Street to have the intended success. It was also noted that the retail offer within Clowne required improvement to create a greater mix.
In reference to the appendix outlining progress within the surrounding villages and hamlets, the officer noted the following:
The officer noted that within the objectives of both the core town centre and the surrounding areas, there were a number rated red and amber, with successes more due to good fortune than good planning. The original document was completed back in 2015-17 and did not fit with current community aspirations. The aim of completing the community consultation at the time was to ensure partners were on board with regeneration. The suite of documents overall were potentially too ambitious and were very resource intensive to produce. It was important going forward that any new approach to regeneration planning was value for money.
The officer noted that there would be a working group for the Bolsover area, following the failed Levelling Up bid, so that a revised plan could be put in place ready for future funding announcements.
A Ward Member for Whitwell noted the redevelopment of the Co-op site with Action housing had proved very successful. The current partnership with the Robin Hood Line would enable the village to create a floral area at the side of the station, and it was hoped to install an old railway carriage to be used for refreshments. A key concern was signage at gateways to the village, and this was noted as an objective that hadn’t progressed. It was particularly an issue at Bowler’s Corner, and it was hoped to refurbish this area. The play areas had now been upgraded with Welbeck Street receiving approximately £250k which had created a brand new MUGA toddler area and space for older children, and also a dog park. The Parish Council had tried to deliver this via the District Council’s BILD Programme, but this had not been possible. The work did however complement the aspirations in the Framework. Looking beyond the Framework, the Parish Council were engaged with the current Woodlands project and a new orchard was in development. They felt the Framework had at least given local impetus to endeavour to improve the area.
A Ward Member for Barlborough noted that the footpath running alongside the golf course at the edge of Clowne had now been unblocked, which was a huge improvement. They also noted that overall progress was disappointing and the Frameworks had not delivered as expected.
The officer acknowledged that the Frameworks hadn’t had the expected impact and it was clear that officers welcomed recommendations from Committee on potential future activity. They noted that it was important that the Council was clear how it could support parishes and that there were clear mechanisms to signpost elsewhere when the Council could not assist. This would also enable the Council to prioritise future action more effectively.
A Ward Member for Whitwell noted that they were aware of the failed bid for Bolsover but understood there would likely be another funding stream to bid to. They noted that things had moved on fast as a result of the pandemic, and the Frameworks did not reflect current local ambitions. Areas not addressed in the Frameworks included carbon emissions, active travel, digital connectivity, parking/park & ride facilities, and this needed rectifying within any new plans formed.
The Officer noted it was vital that any future plans were clear about the type of development that would be accepted within town centre areas, in place of any vacant retail units, where the retail offer could not be replaced.
In reference to Clowne town centre, the Scrutiny & Elections Officer gave feedback on behalf of a Clowne Ward Member. Key issues currently were the revival of the market which had operated for a number of years previously. Furthermore, there was an appetite for shop front improvements, and further improvements to the Mill Street area, to improve the visual look of the centre similar to the Committee Members ideas for Shirebrook Market Place.
As the Framework for Clowne was not currently superseded by recent work as was the case in Bolsover and Shirebrook, the Director of Economic Development asked the Committee for their recommendations for a way forward. Following a brief discussion, Members agreed that initial conversations needed to take place with parish councils to establish local aspirations and ideas. Members agreed the existing framework should be used as starting point for discussions but would ultimately be replaced with a new development framework. This could then enable the creation of a larger working group, covering the whole of the Clowne Framework area, to develop a new integrated plan with representatives from each parish, alongside wider District Council plans in relation to economic development and housing development.
Moved by Councillor David Dixon and seconded by Councillor Jen Wilson
RESOLVED that (1) the contents of the report be noted,
(2) using the existing Framework as a reference point, initial discussions with parish councils within the Framework area should be held,
(3) following parish level discussions, a working group for the whole Framework area be established, to develop a new strategic vision for the wider town centre area and surrounding villages and hamlets.
(Director of Economic Development, DDL/ Business Growth Manager/ Scrutiny & Elections Officer)