Derby shoppers and visitors can now enjoy one of Britain’s most distinctive historic shopping areas, thanks to the fruits of nine years of collaboration between Historic England, Derby City Council and local retailers. The Partnership Scheme has transformed the Derby city centre Conservation Area. Once one of England’s poorest-performing retail areas, it is now an award-winning shopping destination.
In 2009, after years of gradual decline, the historic streets of Derby were designated a ‘Conservation Area at risk’ and added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register. The city topped a national table of struggling towns and cities, with nearly a quarter of its shops lying empty, and many falling into disrepair.
However Derby City Council and Historic England took action by launching the partnership scheme. Since 2009 it has refurbished 97 properties, in the Cathedral Quarter and beyond. Both organisations contributed £844,000 over eight years, with £900,000 coming from the private sector.
The payback has been impressive. The scheme has brought 2,800 square metres of floor space back into use, created 42 new jobs, and helped the Cathedral Quarter win the category of Best City Location in the ‘Great British High Street Award’ for 2016.
As a result, between 2008 and 2012 Derby weathered the recession far better than other cities. In the UK as a whole, high streets suffered an average 26% decline in footfall. But research in Derby’s Cathedral Quarter shows that it remained vibrant: footfall fell by only 7-9%, helping to make Derby much more resilient than similar cities.
The designation of Derby’s historic streets as a Conservation Area has been a major factor in turning the area’s economic fortunes round. For businesses and shoppers in Iron Gate, Wardwick, the Strand, Sadler Gate and surrounding streets, the historic character of the buildings is an asset to prize. Their status as a Conservation Area has enabled the partners in the scheme to work effectively together and make a difference for the city as a whole.
Derby City Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the Economy, Councillor Martin Rawson, said:
“Derby City Council has relished working with Historic England over the last eight years to bring back so many historic buildings to their former glory. This has not only enhanced the attractiveness and uniqueness of Derby city centre but has also directly contributed to supporting the local economy where many of the streets, including The Strand and Sadler Gate, have achieved 100% occupancy.
“This project helps demonstrate the economic and social benefits of historic buildings in urban regeneration and we intend to celebrate our joint success later in the year with an event in Derby”
Louise Brennan, Planning Director for Historic England in the East Midlands, said:
“The transformation in Derby is remarkable. It was immensely satisfying to report last October that Derby city centre’s conservation area is no longer on our Heritage at Risk Register. In fact, Derby has set an example for other cities to follow.
“The city has shown how, with care and attention, its heritage can be used to unleash an economic revival. The quality of the new shop fronts is outstanding and we’re proud to have played a part with Derby City Council and owners in their refurbishment.”