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COLUMN: My fears for the future of Belper’s community

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By Nick McLeod

Chairman of Strutts Community Centre

As a member of a team of volunteers that provides community facilities in Belper, I worry about the future of the town as a sustainable community with a healthy mix of residential and commercial activities. The latest plans to change the old Thornton’s industrial site in Belper into yet another housing development continues the trend to strip the town of its sites for employment opportunities.

The developers will be long gone before the residents suffer the consequences of changing Belper into a “dormitory town” where its residents work elsewhere and our youngsters are forced to move away to seek employment.

Inward investment will not happen overnight. No large employer will move to Belper without the incentives that are offered elsewhere. Economic growth needs to be encouraged from within the town and it needs commercial sites to do this.

I was once told by a local official that the economic development plan for Belper was for “tourism and hospitality”. Well, let us consider the evidence, some of the pubs are closing progressively, and our tourist attractions lack investment, notably the replacement of the tea rooms in the River Gardens.

The ‘Meadows Edge proposals’ for public access to the banks of the River Derwent in Belper could create a fantastic new amenity, but, it needs funding and universal support. Although we seem to have little influence in these matters, there are issues where the community can take control of its own destiny to improve our quality of life, by the power of its volunteers.

Amongst other things, a sustainable community must have venues for its social activities. In the past these have been provided by local sports clubs, churches and industry.

We are fortunate in Belper to have been given the old Herbert Strutt School building where 20 former classrooms are available for hire by community groups, businesses and individuals.

The Strutts Community Centre needs your support as we are open from around 9am to 10pm and desperately need volunteers to help run the Centre. We also need volunteers to organise fund raising events and who are prepared to help with refreshments.We all lead busy and sometimes hectic lives but we ignore the social side of our community at our peril. You can make a difference.If you would like to help contact me, Nick McLeod: 01773 599993.

 

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