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East Midlands Chamber News

What 2021 looks like for the Peak District economy

As a tourist hotspot that was closed to visitors for much of 2020, the Peak District had its fair share of misfortune last year. But despite the downturn, the outlook looks strong with some exciting initiatives planned in 2021, says Robin Eyre, chairman of the Business Peak District representative group.

The typical Peak District business is small to micro in size, with the manufacturing and visitor economy sectors playing a substantial part of our economy – although many other sectors are also thriving. There is low unemployment (below 4%) but lower skill levels and wages relative to the national average.

How 2020 affected Peak District businesses

The region did not escape the economic woes of 2020 – employees were furloughed, the visitor economy was forced to close, people lost their jobs and business confidence was low.

Despite the excellent support of local councils, many small businesses and self-employed people fell through support gaps, either through being directors of small companies on nominal salaries or being self-employed but without requisite financial history. Others who suffered were part-time employees who relied on a buoyant economy for their livelihoods.

Food and drink suppliers faced lack of demand; accommodation providers, cafes and restaurants had no customers; retailers and local attractions were forced to close; while online shopping took off, accelerating a trend that already negatively impacted the high street.

Robin Eyre is chairman of Business Peak District

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom – some businesses witnessed exceptional growth, especially those already selling online. In particular, these included delivery companies, horticulture, furniture and domestic products and services, and tradespeople, as households decided it was time for a refurb.

When lockdown was lifted, visitors flocked back and, aided by the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, the local economies picked up.

Manufacturing and exports anecdotally remained strong, perhaps in part due to forward planning in supply chains.


So, what does 2021 hold for the Peak District?

A number of priorities must be addressed – keeping our high streets alive, improving skills and wages, developing small-scale manufacturing, growing rural digital connectivity, and projects such as the Derwent Valley Corridor.

Businesses must ensure that they also leverage the huge opportunities thrown up by the trend towards online provisions of services. One initiative is the partnering of Derbyshire County Council with ShopAppy to provide a free platform for local retailers to get online.

A focus on small manufacturing firms is also key – a sector with generally higher skills and better wages – and, to this end, Derbyshire Dales District Council is opening the Ashbourne Airfield Business Park.

It’s also likely the visitor economy will remain buoyant, with more Brits looking for a staycation versus a foreign vacation.

One of the biggest opportunities is remote working. Many companies have realised that staff don’t need to be in London, the South-East or Manchester – the Peak District provides a significant opportunity for this with its central geographic location, the social and health benefits of rural living, and great office facilities such as Cromford Creative.

Business Peak District webinar series underway

Business Peak District, a free-to-join organisation representing more than 650 organisations, is supported in delivering year-round activities by the Chamber, which acts as the accountable body.

Throughout 2021, it will host the Radical Thinking to Develop a Sustainable Future for the Peak District webinar programme, featuring various speakers to bring attention to projects and opportunities that could provide economic benefits to the area.

Upcoming events include:

  • Alternative materials and development plans at Breedon Hope Cement Works, by works manager Ed Cavanagh: Wednesday 13 January, 5pm

  • Q&A with Derbyshire Dales District Council, High Peak Borough Council, Marketing Peak District and East Midlands Chamber about the latest grants available and state of play on the local and national economy: Wednesday 27 January, 5pm

  • Harnessing creativity and culture in economic recovery and place shaping, by Derbyshire County Council senior economic development officer Alison Foote: Wednesday 3 March, 5pm

  • Sustainable transport and alternative fuels in Derbyshire and the Peak District, by Go Electric director Jim Sweeney: Wednesday 14 April, 5pm

For more information, visit www.businesspeakdistrict.com/webinar-speakers-schedule.


Q&A with Business Peak District member Pam Smart

Tell us who you are?

I’m an artist based in Buxton. Having spent a career as an art teacher, I became a full-time commercial artist in September 2019. My work includes original paintings, watercolours, prints, cards and art workshops.


How was 2020 for you?

Last year presented some real challenges – as a new business, I couldn’t apply for assistance without the required financial track record. Workshops and exhibitions were cancelled, and shows, markets and galleries were all closed.

So I set about creating my new website www.pamsmart.co.uk, growing my small but dedicated email list, taking on a 100-day Instagram and sketchbook challenge, and posting regularly about my work on both Instagram and YouTube.

Buxton is incredibly supportive of local artists and I was able to exhibit my work in a local café’s window.

In addition to my website and social media, the Buxton Fringe Festival went online and I participated in Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire’s virtual Christmas market. I also launched new products including aprons, bags, cushions and washbags.

I was the featured artist in the Cromford Art Gallery and also had a piece selected for The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. After lockdown, I restarted my workshops.

The results of my efforts far exceeded my expectations – it was an incredibly busy summer with sales of originals, prints and merchandise far better than expected – and my profile significantly boosted.


What is the outlook for 2021?

I need to catch up! This winter, I plan to do lots of painting as I’ve got exhibitions lined up that require a lot of work. My art workshops will restart at Easter.

I have work being displayed in galleries in The Mall, in London, and Hampshire, which I’m thrilled about.

I’m continuing my online endeavours and have signed up for ShopAppy. I’ll continue to exhibit on Peak District Artisans and at its annual show.

Given the circumstances, 2020 beat my expectations by a long way. Let’s hope it continues.