As the local Member of Parliament I was delighted to welcome HLF's Chair Sir Peter Luff to take a look behind the scenes of the Buxton Crescent project last month.
The Crescent is an iconic building of great significance, both locally and nationally. Yet it has lain empty for over 25 years, during which time it has fallen into disrepair - despite the best efforts of the local authority.
“As someone born within a few hundred yards of the Crescent, and who was once a Best Man at a wedding there I am very proud of the building and its heritage.”
Now, following interest from private investment and, crucially, with the assistance of HLF, work is underway to turn it into a 80-bedroom 5-star hotel which will include a visitor centre presenting the town’s spa heritage and allowing public access to some of the building's finest interiors.
There have been hiccups and difficulties along the way but due to the support and commitment of both the developers, The Trevor Osborne Property Group, the Hotel Operators, Danubius Hotels and HLF, one by one they have been overcome.
Returned to its former glory
The Crescent is already the most striking building in Buxton - possibly, with the exception of Chatsworth House, in the whole of the East Midlands - so to welcome Sir Peter and the HLF team to see it for themselves was a great pleasure. As someone born within a few hundred yards of the Crescent, who remembers it when it operated as St Ann's Hotel (indeed I was once a Best Man at a wedding there) I am very proud of the building and its heritage.
During the visit we were guided by Richard Tuffrey from High Peak Borough Council, who has worked on this project for many years and probably knows more about it than anyone. We looked at the old Thermal Baths, which were built to take advantage of the famous Buxton Water, and Richard explained how these would be restored and put back into use. Richard then showed Sir Peter the great ballroom, which will be returned to its former glory.
The contribution of HLF to this project cannot be overestimated. As part of the total £50million investment into the scheme, more than 140 full-time jobs will be directly created, and more than 300 jobs indirectly, in addition to the 350 construction jobs which will be created over the course of the project.
“More than 140 full-time jobs will directly be created, and more than 300 jobs indirectly, in addition to the 350 construction jobs which will be created over the course of the project.”
There is a growing global market in thermal spa markets. This is well developed elsewhere - especially in Japan, China and Europe - but is underdeveloped in the UK. The Crescent will tap into this market, and its Peak District setting means that visitors will be able to combine the relaxation therapy of the spa with the opportunity of outdoor activity, ensuring that the benefits of the Crescent will be felt not just in the town of Buxton, but also across the local area.
We think Buxton is set to become England’s leading spa town, and as part of Buxton’s £90m heritage-led regeneration, the Crescent is a key part of that vision. When complete it will bring significant numbers of extra tourists into the town. It will provide high-quality accommodation for all visitors, including those who flock to the famous Buxton Opera and Literary Festival held every year.
Open for business
I know that Sir Peter was impressed by his visit and with the project as a whole. As the Member of Parliament I speak for many when I say that we are incredibly grateful for the support and backing of HLF - the scale of the grant that they have put into this is not only significant in terms of size, but is hugely significant in terms of the impact that it will make when the Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa is open for business.
It is a case study on how heritage can lead in both regeneration and economic growth. Together with private partners and working with High Peak Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council and our Local Enterprise Partnership - all of whom deserve enormous credit - something very special is being created in the hills of Derbyshire that will one day be known and recognised nationwide.
It was a great privilege to be able to show this project to Sir Peter, and I look forward to welcoming him back in 2018 when the hotel opens for business.
See more on Flickr
More pictures of Buxton Crescent are on our Flickr page.