Making the right investments with input from local people is key to protecting the future of St Neots as a bright and vibrant market town, according to a report which will be going to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board on 25th October.
The report, which comes following the appointment of a team of specialist consultants to create a growth plan back in July, is entitled ‘St Neots Masterplan for Growth’ and will provide a blueprint for the work that the Combined Authority, Huntingdonshire District Council and local partners need to undertake to help St Neots reach its full potential as a great place to live, work and visit.
The report recommends that £5.8m is invested in a number of projects designed to unlock growth in St Neots, leading to a regeneration of the town centre. If given backing by the Combined Authority Board, it will mean that St Neots becomes the first market town in the county to benefit from Combined Authority funding targeted to promote growth in towns, cities and villages.
The investment will be made following consultation with a new steering group called the St Neots Masterplan Partnership. The partnership will be comprised of local and regional politicians along with representatives from the business, education and health sectors, as well as other stakeholders.
The partnership will then develop an even bolder second phase to the masterplan. This will focus on creating a skilled workforce to support the industries within the town and attracting more businesses to locate to or grow in St Neots. The plan will also consider arising opportunities such as the connectivity of the East – West corridor and the feasibility study already underway on the introduction of a rapid mass transport link between St Neots and Cambridge.
Councillor Robin Howe, Deputy Mayor for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, said: “St Neots is the largest town in the region and has great potential, but this needs to be unlocked. If given backing by the Board, the initial £5.8 million will make a real impact and will make a considerable difference within the town. Proposals for the regeneration of the town centre and improved transportation will give a real boost for all of St Neots’ residents and would help to attract more people to come to this fantastic place.
“The ten market towns and the city of Ely will be home to approximately a third of the population of the Combined Authority area. Collectively, this will mean that the population growth in our market towns is on par with our two main cities.
“It is imperative that we invest in our market towns so they can become prosperous economic centres and places of work in their own right and not merely dormitory towns for the larger cities.”
Councillor Graham Bull, Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said: ““St Neots is a hugely important place, and is key to the overall success of Huntingdonshire. We are very keen to work together with our partners in the Town Council and at the Combined Authority to realise St Neots’ full potential for creating jobs and homes, and also for community well-being. Delivering our ‘Local Plan to 2036’, alongside the Town’s own Neighbourhood Plan and the Combined Authority’s Masterplan gives all of us the tools to do exactly that. A new appetite to make things happen, and new funding to unlock progress is most welcome.”
Councillor Derek Giles, Mayor of the St Neots, said: “This investment by the Combined Authority into St.Neots will be a great opportunity to help reverse the worrying trend of St.Neots further becoming a dormitory town.
“The plan to revitalise the town centre to help the day time economy is welcome, as well as the long term skill training opportunities for our young people which will bring long term benefits to St.Neots for decades to come.
“These are exciting times for our town and I am glad that the other authorities are now proposing to work with, and listen to, our Town Council for the benefit of all our residents. It’s local skilled job opportunities we need not just more houses for commuters.”
St Neots was chosen by the Combined Authority as the starting point for a renewed focus on market towns and is the first in a series of masterplan studies proposed for the market towns of Cambridgeshire by Mayor James Palmer.
The plans aim to ensure that growth in housing numbers is coordinated with improved infrastructure, enhanced education and skills training as well as the provision of more local jobs; all of which together will lead to regenerated towns with improved mobility and local services.