AS many towns continue to struggle due to the economic downturn, Swadlincote is bucking the trend. In an exclusive interview with the Mail, council chief executive Frank McArdle tells reporter ROB SMYTH why the area is ‘open for business’
‘WHEN I am asked to reflect on or describe the impact of the Pipeworks on the area I like to think of it as a 360 degree view’.
Those were the words of South Derbyshire District Council chief executive Frank McArdle as he spoke candidly on the ‘incredible’ impact the Pipeworks retail park has had on the fortunes of Swadlincote, and South Derbyshire as a whole, since it was completed and opened in 2011.
The council boss said that the area was bucking the trend of most shopping sites due to the ‘big draw’ of six hours’ free parking, a mixture of stores and a vibrant and bustling market.
He said that the town now had ‘something for everyone’ and was a reflection of just how far the area had come in the past 20 years.
He said: “I imagine myself standing in the middle of the car park at the Pipeworks and seeing a snapshot of everything we now have on offer.
“If you look straight ahead you can see outside the retail centre and a thriving tourist attraction in the Swadlincote Ski Slope and that is something you can just see from the site.
“Standing in the car park is quite apt as visitors have six hours of free parking available to them, something that they do not have if they go to neighbouring areas.
“This means that there is no clock watching and people can just relax and enjoy their time in Swadlincote.
“If you turn a bit to the left you see Swadlincote as it used to be with age old buildings from the pipworks that used to be at the site.
“These were not lost in retail overhaul as £4 million was spent faithfully restoring them to former glories and one now hosts one of the district’s most vibrant and successful pub restaurants - The Tall Chimney.
“Then if you move a bit more to the left you have Prezzo, an Italian themed restaurant that would not look out of sorts in among the busiest streets in London but we have it here in our town.
“Then, just next door, we have a UK wide popular coffee giant in Costa coffee right alongside a national cinema chain in Odeon.
“Visitors can come here to see the latest releases as well as theatre beamed in live from the West End, while having to travel only a few miles from home.”
Mr McArdle explained how, as you reach the halfway point of the centre, that its moves towards a focus on retail.
He added: “If you have had your culture and food fix, it is now time to do some shopping.
“We now boast a massive Argos Extra and one of the fastest growing supermarkets in the country in Aldi, something that was once only a dream.”
The council boss went on to say that this was supplemented by a thriving market on the high street, as well as big hitting firms elsewhere in the town such as Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and McDonalds.
He said: “We are also seeing below average figures in terms of vacant shops with statistics of nine to 11 per cent, compared to 14 per cent nationally.
“This has not happened overnight and is something that will take a lot of work to keep things growing.
“However, we are very proud of what we have achieved in Swadlincote and believe we offer a unique experience to shoppers and visitors.
“We offer a genuine, viable option to people these days that rivals other centres and I am proud to say that South Derbyshire is open for business.”