A major new report has said Heanor has one of the worst retail centres in the UK.
The report from the property consultants Harper Dennis Hobbs Vitality Index comes as Amber Valley Borough Council gears up it’s application for millions in Government cash to regenerate the town.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced the second phase of the Future High Street Fund, a £1 billion investment now available to 100 towns in England to submit plans for the reinvention of their high streets.
Amber Valley has been been selected as one of 50 additional locations to receive funding.
Councillor Ben Bellamy, deputy leader of Amber Valley Borough Council and the Cabinet member for regeneration said: “In common with many other towns up and down the country, Heanor has been affected by the changes in the nation’s shopping habits, the effects of austerity on household incomes, the increasing use of online retail and the withdrawal of once common high street names from small market towns.
“Heanor however, is a proud town with an amazing community spirit and lots going for it and we believe Heanor has an incredibly bright future, with significant opportunities and community support to drive the transformation of the town centre to become a community hub.
“This was recognised by the Government in awarding development funding of £100,000 through the first stage of the Future High Streets Fund and the Council is currently fully engaged with partners in drawing together proposals for a multi-million pound second stage bid, which will be submitted to the government in spring 2020”.
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Earlier this year, strategic retail property consultancy Harper Dennis Hobbs, highlighted Amber Valley, home of Heanor as the 303rd least ‘healthy’ local authority for retail centres in the UK, based on its Vitality Index, an analysis of more than 1,000 UK shopping districts.
The Vitality Index determines the retail health of a shopping area based on factors, including the level of retail vacancy, ‘undesirable’ tenants like pawnbrokers, money lenders and bookmakers, and the fit between the retail stock in the town and catchment shoppers.
Leonie George chairman of Heanor Vision said: “I am excited for the future . I think good things will come from this and we will fight tooth and nail for this money.
Heanor has been one of the most fragile of retail towns in the Amber Valley.”
She said a great deal of hard work was being done to make sure the town will receive the cash in the second stage bid.
The former traders association has met with Amber Valley Council before it submitted the bid and have sent letters supporting the bid.
She added: "High streets are absolutely key- they are changing and we have to find how to unlock their potential.
"The high street is pivotal because without it a place has no heart. You lose that cohesion .
"The Government obviously recognises that it has an impact on on mental health , behaviour and other dynamics more than people realise.
"I don't like to be disparaging about Heanor - it has been one of the most fragile of retail towns in the Amber Valley and the worst hit by the national trend for high streets declining.
"We had a lot of empty shops and the high street is really struggling. It has been really difficult for Heanor Traders.
"There are a multitude of things which have happened together, the decline of industry like mining and Courtaulds had a massive hit.
"It is a national trend and Heanor has become very fragile down to the loss of industry. it has lost a lot of its vibrancy due to that.
She said there had been poor planning - the Local plan did not protect it like other towns such as Ripley and Belper, compounded by austerity and changes in the way people shop.
But she added that there were "irons in the fire to support the revitalisation of the town.
:" We have groups in place . Amber Valley Council is working very hard for the second bid for a bigger bite of the cherry . This will run into millions of pounds.
"Heanor Vision invited and urban designer and we have had meetings about how people think about the town.
"We need to look at high street parking, not doing the relief road.
"Improvements could be made to shop fronts, how traffic flows through the town and encouraging independent traders to the market place would make it an easier and more attractive place to shop.
"Improving car parking has an impact on shopping, slowing the main road allowing people to park up with chevrons and increasing the amount of time they can park for free.
"We had antisocial behaviour problems so we stepped up policing. This shows how doing things has implications on how people feel . They need to feel safe .
She said investment in towns made people feel more aspirational.
"One of the things that has worked have been thematic markets such as Foodie Friday , encouraging lots of different traders to come in ; and events such as cinemas and party in the park.
"A can do attitude and positivity breeds positivity. It takes a community to become a community."