When I landed a job at the Derby Telegraph almost 10 years ago, I nearly quit before my first day.
Just out of university, I took the job without knowing Derby and my first impressions left me plotting an escape.
I moved into a run-down terraced “house share” property in Gower Street, just around the corner from St Peter’s Street. It was all I could afford for the time being, but at least it was only a one-minute walk to the shops and nightlife etc.
After unloading my stuff and meeting a couple of my new housemates (both of them weird), I went for a wander to get my bearings.
One of the first sights I came across was the former Hippodrome theatre. What a despairing mess.
Then I found the neglected Duckworth Square. Here, a befuddled couple asked me to spare some change, presumably to fund their alcohol and drug habit.
The former Hippodrome theatre has suffered a roof collapse and is badly damaged
The heart of the town centre was OK, but I later ended up in Normanton where a dishevelled lady came up to me and placed an apparently “gold” necklace in my hand, before informing me I owed her £20.
Back at my new lodgings, I began to panic. Where the hell had I moved to?
I pondered moving back to the family home in Cheshire and looking for another job.
However, the prospect of kick-starting a career in journalism kept me here and, thankfully, I soon found first impressions had been deceiving.
New multi-million pound developments like Westfield and Quad gave the impression I had moved to a city with ambition after all.
Pride Park looked like a 21st century business park and I enjoyed going to a few Derby County games (even though it was during the miserable Paul Jewell era).
Retail parks such as the Wyvern, Meteor Centre and Kingsway seemed up to scratch.
The opening of Westfield, now Intu Derby, in 2007 was testament to the city’s ambition, argues our business reporter Paul Whyatt
The huge Derby City General Hospital (now Royal Derby Hospital) had just been rated as one of the best in the country.
Beauty spots such as Markeaton Park and Elvaston Castle made me want to borrow a dog for some nice walks.
And the city’s close proximity to places like Matlock Bath, Bakewell, Chatsworth and the rest of the Peak District – and indeed a handful of other cities that also have plenty to offer – provided me with further incentive to stick around.
Thus, my new aim was to do three years at the Derby Telegraph before going back to my roots, either in Cheshire or East Anglia where I grew up.
Derby city centre parking: secret spots and tips for a more stress-free visit
Almost a decade on, I’m still here and there are three key reasons why.
Firstly, I feel settled here. Secondly, I love my job. And thirdly, I genuinely believe Derby is a city on the up.
Yes, there are “grot spots” and issues around open drug-taking and street begging. But show me a city that doesn’t face the exact same challenges.
Those who moan tend to forget that over £3 billion has been invested in Derby over the past 10 years, helping to improve the city’s retail, leisure and commercial offer.
A plethora of hotels have opened in Derby over the past 10 years, including Jurys Inn
Here are just some completed projects:
£340 million Westfield shopping centre, now Intu Derby.
Riverlights / Derby Bus Station
Cathedral Quarter re-birth
New inner ring road
A wave of new hotels
Riverside Chambers (revamp of the former Magistrates’ Court on Full Street)
Other managed workspace schemes, such as Friar Gate Studios and Sadler Bridge Studios
Council House refurbishment
More than new 1,000 homes/student flats in DE1 postcode – including Castleward
One Friar Gate Square – the “copper building”
Admittedly, some projects have proved more successful than others. But all buildings have a 21st century feel and look brilliant, in my opinion.
What I find most exciting about Derby, however, is what is to come.
A new performance venue will help transform the Market Place and bring in additional footfall, boosting the plethora of new bars and restaurants that have opened in the city centre in recent times.
Likewise with the plans to regenerate the Duckworth Square/Becketwell area. There has been a lot of interest from developers since the council obtained ownership of the land, paving the way for its transformation. A number of exciting ideas, including a £10 million ice rink, are now being discussed.
Derby City Council’s vision for a new performance venue in the Market Place
The planned refurbishment of the Silk Mill also looks exciting, as do plans for a new neighbourhood – called Nightingale Quarter – on the former DRI site in London Road.
Derby has failed to make the most of the River Derwent but a masterplan for the city centre earmarks land on the northern side for development.
Elsewhere, the £100 million Castleward scheme is coming along and hundreds more homes and a new primary school are set to be built over the coming years.
There’s now a plan for Friar Gate Goods Yard, with a new secondary school set to be built on the site.
Slightly further afield is Infinity Park and the proposed “Garden Village” housing programme. These projects should begin to take shape once a new junction and access road is built from the A50.
I could go on!
Yes, progress is slower than we’d all like – not least because of limited council funds and a difficult planning system.
But dump the idea that Derby is a dump, because it isn’t.
Source: Derby Telegraph