Joseph Cattmull, Architectural Technologist at Planning & Design Practice Ltd talks about the ambitious plans for the Becketwell area of Derby, as redevelopment plans take a major step forward.
For many years the old Debenhams building in Derby has stood out, but for all the wrong reasons. I still remember arriving in Derby as a student back in 2014 and being amazed by the buildings prominence on a street of otherwise high architectural quality. After many years it now appears that a much needed redevelopment will finally take place.
A new multi-use proposal, put forward by St James Securities in partnership with Derby City Council has received backing and looks like it will be going ahead. The former Debenhams building has been demolished and finally the area can be rejuvenated with a modern multi use purpose and architectural design to lift the surrounding area. A combination of residential and commercial building have been put forward, ensuring a high level of footfall through the area.
The residential development has been reduced in scale, and probably for the best. Formerly being 19 storeys on the public square side, now reduced to 11 providing a better balance to the site and helping to blend the development in with the street scene. 259 apartments (136 one bed, 93 two bed and 30 studio apartments) being built alongside ground floor commercial spaces provide a brilliant opportunity to create a lively hub for Derby residents to gravitate towards. There could be real potential for the area to become a social hub, with the site being surrounded by various bars and restaurants and it is crucial that this potential is realised.
The importance of creating a hub in the centre of the city cannot be understated, the poor location of the Intu shopping centre drags footfall away from the city centre and towards the edge of the city. As a result the market square and the quality of retail in the centre of the city has suffered, the new Becketwell development can hopefully be a step in the right direction towards the city centres revival.
Potentially most exciting is the newly proposed venue, designed to replace the Assembly Rooms. The potential for live music and other performances within the city centre can be the spark to reignite the nightlife scene within Derby. The proposed 3,500 capacity venue will allow Derby to compete with neighbouring city Nottingham, who boast a number of performance venues, including Rock City, the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall and the Motorpoint Arena.
Having such a venue with the potential to bring in up to 3,500 people to performances and events on a weekly or even multiple times a week could do wonders for the cities nightlife and social scene. The proposed Becketwell development must be applauded in putting forward such an exciting and ambitious scheme for the city to look forward to.
However, there is another side to this, perhaps, most vital to the success of the development is creating desirable residential spaces. Creating a residential space alongside a social hub can be a tricky thing to pull off, the balance between being socially busy but also providing the residents with a relaxing and comfortable environment to reside in. This can be solved through good architectural design and layout awareness, for example having bedrooms facing an inner courtyard and the living spaces facing out onto the street scene could perhaps be a solution. Of course, no internal layouts nor designs have been finalised so it will be interesting to see what approach the Architects will take when approaching this issue.
The Becketwell development is definitely something to keep an eye on and to get excited about, if carried out well, the project could be the catalyst for the city centres revival. As a company we will be keeping an eye on all the developments of this project and look forward to the scheme being completed.
Joseph Cattmull, Architectural Technologist, Planning & Design Practice Ltd
Main image: Becketwell Aerial from North East – St James Securities