Council and Police chiefs urge Sports Direct to contribute to Shirebrook’s failing infrastructure

The new Sports Direct building, Meadow Lane, Shirebrook.

The new Sports Direct building, Meadow Lane, Shirebrook.

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Council and police chiefs have urged Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley to chip in towards Shirebrook’s failing infrastructure.

Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles and Stephen Fritchley Chair of Shirebrook Town Council both made the plea this week after councillors were asked to resign at a public meeting just months after they were elected.

Coun Fritchley was among six councillors grilled by protestors over their handling of the huge influx of migrant workers brought into the area to work at Sports Direct over recent years.

Around 250 residents attended the angry meeting at Shirebrook Miners’ Welfare on Friday.

The gathering comes after a series of protests in June following a recent spate of violence and anti-social behaviour in the town.

Sports Direct is in the process of building another huge storage warehouse which protestors fear will bring thousands more workers from outside the area.

Residents are also concerned about plans to build 650 more houses in Shirebrook when schools are overflowing and there are no new doctors or dentists to cope.

Organiser of the meeting, David Anthony, accused Shirebrook Town councillors who also sit on Bolsover District Council of failing the town over the past five years.

He said: “What knowledge did they have about Sports Direct and the influx of people into our town? We are now having to cope with about 700 houses being built.

“This has opened people’s eyes to what the councils are actually doing in our town.

“Why on earth did they not put stipulations in place for the new warehouse that is being built? If it is to create jobs, 80 per cent should be guaranteed to local people.

“If they just approve everything, Sports Direct can do what they want.

“A big warehouse is just being built now as big as the other one.

“There has been a recruitment drive in the market place and that is a positive thing for Shirebrook.

“But if they are using agencies they will recruit Eastern Europeans and it is going to have a knock on effect.

“The councillors should hang their heads in shame. They got it wrong but they won’t admit it.”

“People are disappointed there is no new infrastructure being put forward and they have no trust in the council.”

Coun Stephen Fritchley said Town Councillors shared the residents’ frustrations.

He said: “There were calls for us to resign, but everything they have been asking for in the town centre, the town council has been working towards anyway.”

He said the decision for building 650 houses on the 46 hectare site off Meadow Lane had been deferred pending discussions related to additional infrastructure payments from the developers.

The development was started by the East Midland Development Agency (EMDA) in 2000, predating the arrival of Sports Direct on the adjacent site.

Coun Fritchley said: “Sports Direct is dominating not just the skyline but is probably the biggest employer in the district.

“If Sports Direct remain in town there needs to be a massive effort to meet the changing demands on the social and physical infrastructure of Shirebrook.

“Currently the number of people working at Sports Direct, at around 4,000 plus, equates to nearly half the population of the town. The unofficial increase in the population has led to an increase into the conversion of properties into HMOs (house in multiple occupation) and rooms to let.

“Due to these increasing numbers the local health centre is nearly at breaking point.

“Plans by the HCA to build 650 houses on the edge of Shirebrook will only make things worse.

“I think the academy will be able to cope with increased numbers, but I don’t think the Model Village school will.”

He said all the local authorities had to come together to encourage Government and other agencies to support a massive infrastructure investment in Shirebrook.

He added: “Mike Ashley doesn’t have a legal obligation but I think he has a moral obligation to Shirebrook where his business is causing social problems.

“Sports Direct should be contributing to the infrastructure and I haven’t seen any of that.”

Alan Charles, Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I told the meeting that I don’t think 250 people in one room shouting at each other will solve anything - neither will councillors resigning.

“There was an election two months ago and people from Shirebrook made a democratic choice.

“You have to have faith and confidence in them to move forward and start improving things in Shirebrook.

“Included in that has to be Sports Direct - you can’t say they have caused the problems but they should be taking corporate responsibility for the community where they have set up their HQ and at the moment I’m not seeing that happening.”

Chad contacted Sports Direct who had not replied to our request for a comment when we went to press on Tuesday.