Mayor James Palmer will this week ask the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Board to trigger the process by which the region’s market towns can apply for millions of pounds to help them unlock opportunity and shape their own future.
The Combined Authority has put £13.1 million on the table to support delivery of eleven market town masterplans. This hefty commitment will help turn ideas to reality and act as a catalyst to help the towns spark up additional investment.
To apply for capital funds of up to a million pounds, town teams and local councils will be invited to submit bids against the Investment prospectus.
All funding applications will be assessed against specific criteria – including match funding and value for money – and actions to support Covid-19 economic recovery.
As Cambridgeshire reopens for business, Mayor Palmer is keen to help market towns become Covid-secure and to boost ‘active transport’ like walking and cycling which will reduce people’s reliance on buses and cars.
Always high on the Mayor’s agenda, the idea behind the ‘Masterplans for Growth’ is simple. Local community and business leaders identify what their market town needs most and bring the ideas into a single plan behind which councils, commerce, and community can unite. It means they can focus resources on these shared priorities and use the masterplan to attract fresh investment from Government and private sector.
James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough:
“Before I launched the Masterplans, no single strategy addressed the huge contribution market towns make. Market towns are the key to unlocking each area’s full potential. They are the backbone of our region and I’m determined to help them stay strong and grow stronger. That means investment. It means creating vibrant town centres that celebrate history and heritage but look to the future. It means connectivity and attracting jobs so people can work in and around the town, instead of commuting miles. Historically, these towns were built on trade and I want them to thrive far into the future.”
Following the successful ‘Masterplan for Growth’ pilot in St Neots, ten other market towns in Fenland, East Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire now have their own masterplan, or expect to have it next month, and hope for Combined Authority money to help bring their ambitions to life.
At Wednesday’s virtual Board meeting, Mayor Palmer will ask members to approve the launch of the Combined Authority’s bid process. This will invite the market towns to propose their priority projects for a cut of £10 million in capital funding, which will be shared across ten of the market towns.
In addition, there is £3.1 million ringfenced for the eleventh town, St Neots. This money was originally earmarked for a bridge project, but in the light of increasing costs, the town will now submit a new proposal within the scope of the approved St Neots masterplan.
If he gets Board go-ahead, Mayor Palmer will launch the Prospectus this month, and the market towns’ applications for funding will be brought to the Board for approval from July onwards.
The market town economies are vital assets in growing the wider Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy and the emphasis placed on their development by the Combined Authority has been hailed by Government, by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Commission, and by other partners as a bold and progressive step towards inclusive growth.
Following the bid process, the Mayoral Combined Authority will remain a strategic partner for the market towns, ensuring that region-wide decisions meet the needs of each masterplan, and lobbying Government for further resource to deliver sensible place-sensitive growth.
“These Masterplans are devolution in action. They spell out the needs of the local area, from new job opportunities, and education and skills provision, through to community facilities and local attractions. Under devolution, power and budgets passed from Westminster to the Combined Authority, and now these Masterplans draw that same power and budget into the very roots of our region. People in the market towns know what they need and that gives me authority as Mayor to make an informed case to Government for more investment in what they want,” said Mayor Palmer.