Retail Revitalised: Scheme to Revive Derby’s Historic Shopping Streets Celebrates Success

Derby’s shoppers and visitors can now enjoy one of Britain’s most distinctive shopping areas. Thanks to a nine year collaboration between Historic England, Derby City Council and local retailers, Derby's historic city centre conservation area has been transformed. Once one of England’s poorest-performing retail areas, it's now an award-winning shopping destination.

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Conservation area at risk

In 2009, after years of gradual decline, the historic streets of Derby were designated a ‘conservation area at risk’ and added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register. The city topped a national table of struggling towns and cities, with nearly a quarter of its shops lying empty, and many in disrepair.

Partners to the rescue

However Historic England and Derby City Council took action by launching a partnership scheme. Since 2009 it has refurbished 97 properties, in the Cathedral Quarter and beyond. Both organisations contributed £844,000 over eight years, with £900,000 coming from the private sector.  

A man walking through a period, light stone arcade past a woman sitting in the window of a coffee shop.
The Strand Arcade, Derby, July 2016 © Historic England DP187412

Historic character brings resilience

The payback has been impressive. The scheme has brought 2,800 square metres of floor space back into use. It's also created 42 new jobs and helped the Cathedral Quarter win the category of Best City Location in the ‘Great British High Street Award’ for 2016.

As a result, between 2008 and 2012 Derby weathered the recession far better than other cities. In the UK as a whole, high streets suffered an average 26% decline in footfall. But research in Derby’s Cathedral Quarter shows that it remained vibrant: footfall fell by only 7-9%, helping to make Derby much more resilient than similar cities.  

Before and after photos of shopfronts along The Wardwick, Derby.
The Wardwick, Derby, after reinstatement of shopfronts (above) and before (below) © Historic England

How being a conservation area helped

The designation of Derby’s historic streets as a Conservation Area has been a major factor in turning the area’s economic fortunes round. For businesses and shoppers in Iron Gate, Wardwick, the Strand, Sadler Gate and surrounding streets, the historic character of the buildings is an attraction. Their status as a conservation area has enabled the partners in the scheme to work effectively together and make a difference for the city as a whole.

Shop fronts and parked cars along The Strand, Derby.
The Strand, Derby, July 2016 © Historic England DP187421
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