New plans for massive re-development in Belper were being drawn up this week after supermarket giant Tesco confirmed it is no longer interested in building a megastore in the town.
The retail chain owns a large patch of land off Derwent Street – which had been earmarked as the site for an 80,000 square foot supermarket until last week.
However as the plans were ditched by the store, civic leaders and shopkeepers in the town have said the time is right for fresh ideas for the area to be brought forward, a move that the Belper News is also backing.
The drive to re-develop the area came as comments continued to pour in to the Belper News after we broke the news of Tesco’s dramatic announcement last week.
Belper Town Council leader John Nelson said: “We have got to make sure it’s right. We have one shot and one shot only at this site. It’s a blank sheet of paper.
“We have got to look at the whole site now. When it is developed, whatever is built will be there for another 100 years.There are mind-boggling options. I would have liked to have seen a leisure centre down there - but it appears that’s a non-starter.
“There were plans for a new library down there at one time. There is also an opportunity for a public park that would make Matlock look like Belper’s poor relation.”
The area has become rundown over the past few years, with vandlaism and nuisance behaviour regularly reported in there.
But any company wishing to build on the Meadows Edge area, as it is known, will have to comply with a strict extra layer of planning laws designed to ensure the character of the surrounding World Heritage Site is maintained.
Belper Mayor Mark Robertson said: “It needs major re-development. Whether that is shops, housing, offices, workshops or something else, something needs to be done urgently.
“It’s an eyesore at the moment. During the St George’s Day parade there were lots of comments made about the state of the area.
“Personally I would not have been in favour of a massive supermarket. A smaller supermarket or shopping area would be okay. Whoever takes it over from Tesco needs to ensure that whatever is built keeps in character with the World Heritage Site.”
Campaigners had voiced fears throughout the battle with Tesco that it would detract from the High Street.
Charlotte Tansley, of Fresh Basil Deli on Strutt Street, said: “Belper is not your average market town and I think whoever moves in to the site should work together with the local traders.
“We have the Totally Locally scheme now which is trying to promote all the local shops and I think that is a really good thing. Independent traders in the town are really stuggling at the moment. If Tesco moved in we would be constantly competing with their buying power and it would have been bad for the local economy and the High Street. We would have seen a lot more shops close down.”
Meanwhile, Belper Civic Forum said it wanted a new-style neighbourhood plan to be pursued.
A spokesman said: “Belper Civic Forum became convinced the last thing the council were looking for was a large superstore on the other side of a new road.
“This news provides the opportunity for the town to use the new neighbourhood plan legislation to develop proposals for the Meadows Edge area integrated with all the employment, shopping, traffic, parking and visitor needs. Let’s plan a fabulous new edge to the town that we can all enjoy and be proud of.”