The following is the text of my letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in support High Peak Borough Council’s application to the Future High Streets Fund for support for Buxton Town Centre.
Dear Secretary of State
I write in support of the application from High Peak Borough Council to the Future High Streets Fund for support for Buxton Town Centre.
Buxton is the retail hub for the surrounding smaller towns and villages of the Peak District and is very important, not only to the resident population, but to those living within a radius of around 12 miles.
The retail offer includes several multiples, although these are reducing. The loss of the Marks & Spencer store at the end of April will be a big blow to the town, and comes on top of closures of national brands H Samuel, Santander and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
There is a current vacancy rate of 11% but this will increase if these vacancies on the pedestrianised Spring Gardens are not filled.
There is a wide range of independent retailers. 70 are listed on the Vision Buxton website, but there are many more. Buxton’s independent retailers are very keen to support the application and to assist in practical ways.
I held a meeting for Buxton retailers earlier in March and was very pleased that over 60 attended and were extremely constructive. During the meeting they agreed to support a new communication system to alert each other to criminal activity in the town centre, but also to promote events and activity around the town.
However, the independent retailers are spread over a wide area, including a steep hill up to the Market Place on Higher Buxton which makes it difficult to get around and many people are not aware of Buxton’s varied retail offer. Several of the independent stores are contained within covered market areas of the Cavendish Arcade and The Arches which are at either end of the main pedestrianised shopping area, but with a main road to cross to each of them.
Buxton has seen a lot of recent investment in the splendid Crescent, which is due to open later this year, in the refurbished museum, in Buxton Opera House and the university. However the Town Centre itself has seen very little investment.
Buxton’s visitor numbers have increased by 5% to over 4.5 million since 2016 and Buxton is being marketed to high value international visitors in preparation for the opening of the Crescent.
The town enjoys good rail links – now improved with a half-hourly service to Manchester, and regular bus services from both the north and south of the town.
It is especially important to older people, who may find it difficult to travel to larger towns or cities further afield and often do not use the internet. They need to be able to purchase what they need in Buxton, and to get around the town easily.
The Town Centre needs investment so that it both delivers a good service to local residents, and adds to the town’s attraction to visitors.
I therefore offer my full support to the application and hope that you will look upon it favourably.
Ruth George MP
Member of Parliament for High Peak