The ‘Greta Thunberg effect’ has been hailed as an opportunity for innovation and employment in Chesterfield by leaders from the town’s tourism and rail sectors.
Elizabeth Fagan CBE, Chair of D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, Jon Veitch, Managing Director of Talgo UK and Rupert Carr, Director of Birchall Properties, the company behind PEAK, spoke at the annual Celebrate Chesterfield Conference (11 March), which was organised by Destination Chesterfield.
The creation of PEAK resort, a new HS2 station and maintenance depot, as well as investment in the borough by Spanish train manufacturer Talgo, makes Chesterfield well-placed for the UK’s projected growth in rail travel and staycations brought about by the public’s growing concern for the environment.
Earlier this year Chesterfield Borough Council also announced its plans for the borough to be carbon neutral.
At the conference it was announced that Chesterfield is at the forefront of Talgo’s All Britain Strategy. The company, which has a 60% market share of the rail industry in Spain, established its head office in Chesterfield early this year. It now has plans to open a research and development centre, co-located with Barrow Hill Roundhouse, with recruitment due to begin shortly. The company is currently bidding to supply trains to HS2.
Jon Veitch said: “Chesterfield provides us with an ideal location to access clients throughout the UK and take advantages of the growing opportunities within the rail sector being driven, in part, by the Greta Thunberg effect.
“Already this has had a detrimental effect on air travel in Spain, further opening up opportunities for Talgo. We anticipate a similar effect in the UK and we want to be at the forefront of the rail revolution in the UK.”
Speaking at the conference, Elizabeth Fagan CBE said: “The 2008 Climate Change Act allowed the opportunity for the UK Government to declare its ambition on carbon reduction and set legally binding targets, HS2 allows our region to be at the forefront of declaring itself carbon neutral as well as being a leading bastion in energy efficiency and development and use of clean energy technology.
“HS2 is a once in a generation opportunity for the town, enabling employment opportunities to be unlocked. We must ensure we take this moment in time to deliver our carbon neutral ambition to improve the skills of the people who work in this region and ensure that Chesterfield, D2N2 and Midlands region is at the forefront of leading this UK-wide ambition.”
The decrease in air travel, coupled with Brexit, has led to a growth in the UK staycation market. According to research from UK hospitality job board Caterer.com, 70% of the British population are planning a break in the UK for 2020, an increase in the predicted number of staycations compared to those taken last year.
Riding on the staycation boom, it was announced at the Celebrate Chesterfield Conference that construction on the David Lloyd Adrenaline World has begun at PEAK. It represents the beginning of the phase one delivery of the resort which, when completed will be an integrated leisure, health, sport and education destination on the edge of the Peak District National Park; set on the 300-acre Birchall Estate in Chesterfield.
There is more than £1 billion of development currently happening in Chesterfield, with key developments Chesterfield Waterside, PEAK and an innovation centre at Northern Gateway all set to come out of the ground in 2020.
Councillor Tricia Gilby, Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “Ten years ago, Chesterfield Borough Council made the very bold decision to invest in establishing Destination Chesterfield. It is has proved to be a great success helping us attract new companies, like Talgo, to Chesterfield, creating new jobs and transforming local peoples lives and benefitting local communities. The next 10 years are equally exciting, as we have developments like PEAK and Waterside coming out of the ground as well as proposals on the table for the next phase of making Chesterfield a thriving borough.”
Peter Swallow, Chair of Destination Chesterfield added: “Destination Chesterfield as a project has put the town on the map. We have a higher regional and national profile which is certainly a tick in the box for current and prospective investors. HS2 moving into the town has further raised our profile and I am confident that international investors will now be looking towards the town.”
Mr Veitch added: “We are delighted to be investing in Chesterfield. The town is on the cusp of sustainable, generational change and we very much want to be a part of Team Chesterfield and its future.”