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People & Communities

This page includes a range of frequently asked questions about the investment in St Neots.

Who are the project funders?

The investment in St Neots Town Council will be funded as follows:

  • £5.1 million from Huntingdonshire District Council

  • £3.8 million from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Future High Streets Fund

  • £3.1 million from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

  • £3.5 million from National Highways.

How were the projects chosen?

In March 2019 the District Council submitted an Expression of Interest to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities for funding from the Future High Streets Fund. After being successful at the expression of interest stage we were awarded a small grant to develop a full business case.

During the development of the business case, a large number of projects were considered, evaluated and refined down to a smaller number of proposals that met certain criteria, which were that the projects:

  • support the strategic direction of the town as set out in previous work such as the St Neots Masterplan for Growth - and the St Neots Neighbourhood Plan

  • meet the funding priorities and criteria of the Future High Streets Fund

  • achieve value for money - cost relative to benefits and

  • can be delivered within the project timeframe with acceptable levels of risk.

Proposals were refined through engagement with stakeholders, urban design studies and cost estimates. Alongside this, an options appraisal was undertaken that considered both strategic fit and deliverability.

What is the timeframe for St Neots investment projects?

The government requires that the Future High Streets Fund money be spent by March 2024, however, work paid for by the other funders could continue after this period.

We are currently in a period where we need to design, investigate, plan, procure and phasing of projects and this will take time to ensure the right solutions and value for money.

It is likely that delivery of one or two of projects will start in Autumn 2023.

How can I find out what is happening?

We will be sharing regular updates with stakeholders, on our website, via social media and to residents who have signed up to receive our newsletter.

What are you doing in the Market Square?

The improvements to the Market Square will look to create an attractive and versatile public realm space by introducing new landscaping and improved facilities for the market and other events in the Market Square.

Introducing seating areas to encourage more people to come and stay for longer, and improving the pedestrian and cycling experience throughout the town centre. Disabled parking spaces will be provided on the southern side of the square.

Works will begin on-site in late 2023. The project should be complete by January 2025. 

How much will it cost?

Of the £15 million allocated to investment in St Neots, around £8 million of this is allocated to the town centre improvements. This will deliver significant enhancements to the Market Square area as well as the full length of the High Street and town bridge.

The funding for this project is as follows:

  • National Highways - £3,493,218.00
  • CPCA - £3,100,000.00
  • FHSF - £1,062,629.00
  • CCC - £250,000.00

Total - £7,905,847.00

The project is forecast to be delivered in line with the total funds allocated and is currently running on time and on budget. The project budget covers all costs required to deliver the scheme from start to completion and handover, including but not limited to:

  • design and investigation
  • project management, site supervision and staff costs
  • land, legal and TRO/permit costs
  • construction fees and materials
  • utilities diversions
  • street lighting works
  • risk contingencies
  • optimism bias
  • UK Power Networks - new feed for Market Square power supply.

Where obliged and permitted to, the value of all contracts pertaining to this project are publicly available.

Please note that some contract values may not be published as they are commercially sensitive. The sharing of such information may jeopardise HDC's ability to conduct fair and competitive tender exercises that ensure value for money in the future.

How has the project been funded?

The scheme is being co-funded by external bodies using funding allocated for the purpose of High Street regeneration.

This external funding is provided specifically for the delivery of this project and cannot be used for any other council business or projects.

Financial contribution by HDC towards the project comes from the Community Infrastructure Levy funds held by the district council. This is money collected from private developers and is specifically for use on public infrastructure and community projects such as this.

The project is not being delivered at the expense of any other council activity and we continue to provide significant support to residents as normal, especially those in crisis or at risk of falling into crisis.

You've been talking about this for years and nothing has happened, why is this any different?

This project has had a long gestation period as the initial vision for St Neots evolved through to detailed designs.

  • Funding has been secured and ring-fenced for the scheme

  • Detailed construction designs have been completed and resources put in place to deliver the project

  • Taylor Woodrow (formerly Eurovia) has been appointed as the main contractor to deliver the works, having been selected through competitive tender overseen by Cambridgeshire County Council through the Eastern Highways Alliance framework. 

  • The project should be complete by January 2025.

People won't come to the town centre if they can't park - why are you getting rid of the parking on Market Square?

New disabled spaces will be provided on the south side of the Market Square.

St Neots is well-served for car parking more generally, with several Huntingdonshire District Council car parks within a short walk of Market Square. These include blue badge spaces as well.

Feedback from public engagement has demonstrated that, on balance, residents support the change of use for the Market Square and would prefer to see the square opened up as a public realm space permanently, instead of being used for parking.

What's the point of spending money on Market Square if the Old Falcon Inn remains derelict?

We fully recognise the importance of the Old Falcon Inn to the people of St Neots and the significant opportunity that this building represents for the town.

The building is in private ownership and not owned by HDC.

We have created a separate project to establish how best we can support the current owner in bringing this historic building back into meaningful use.

Why are you replacing the trees on Market Square?

A tree assessment report undertaken by Cambridgeshire County Council identified that these trees were planted incorrectly. They present a hazard due to root growth causing the pavement to buckle and break. Their planting pits were also much too small for trees with large canopies. Without the spread of a wide, healthy root system, each year they are more likely to lean and eventually fall.

Cambridgeshire County Council Highways were planning to remove these trees already as a result. This removal was put on hold due to the Market Square improvement project being in the pipeline.

As a result of this scheme, the trees that have been removed will be replaced with a greater number and variety of semi-mature trees on both the north and south sides of the square.

We looked at options to replant the trees elsewhere. However, after discussions with our arboriculture team, it became clear that this wasn't viable. Due to the incorrect way the trees were planted originally, the root structures did not develop correctly and as a result, any attempt to replant them would likely have failed.

What will you do with the trees once they have been cut down?

The felled trees are being stored and dried out. Later in the summer the timber will be used to create bat and bird boxes, as well as other wildlife habitats for Riverside Park.

Does the council need permission to remove the trees in Market Square?

The felled trees were not protected by Tree Preservation Orders, but were protected due to being in a conservation area. Trees in a conservation area that are not protected by an Order are protected by the provisions in section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

These provisions require people to notify the local planning authority, using a section 211 notice, 6 weeks before carrying out certain work on such trees, unless an exception applies. A section 211 notice is not required for the cutting down, topping, lopping or uprooting of a tree by, or on behalf of, the authority (in this case HDC). View more information.

Will there be any changes to the weekly markets?

Improvements to the Market Square will be completed in sections to allow the Thursday charter market, Saturday farm and craft market and other events to continue throughout the construction period. We are working to minimise disruption to traders, event organisers and the public.

The current operator of the weekly Thursday charter market, Wendy Fair Markets, has decided to stop operating this market in St Neots. We will take over this market from 3 August 2023 and, as above, the market will not move from the Market Square during the town centre improvements.

We're hearing a lot about Market Square, what else are you doing?

Whilst Market Square is where the most obvious changes will be seen, there are also works taking place along the High Street.

There will be highway, footway and junction improvements to benefit all road users, but specifically for pedestrians and cyclists.

A new signalised crossing will be constructed at the Huntingdon Street junction with complementary works on the High Street, outside the former Beales store, to widen the footpath.

Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs) will be added to all arms of each junction along the High Street, a measure specifically requested by local walking and cycling groups.

The programme also has a separate project to improve the Priory Centre.

Activity has been taking place to identify potential future projects in St Ives, Huntingdon and Ramsey as well, as part of a visioning exercise, so that we are best able to take advantage of future opportunities for funding as they arise.

Who is responsible for the provision of blue badge parking?

The High Street and Market Square are designated public highways. Blue badge space provision and design in the public highway is the responsibility of Cambridgeshire County Council. Huntingdonshire District Council is responsible for blue badge spaces in HDC-run car parks.

How many blue badge spaces are in the new design?

There are officially 12 blue badge spaces at present on the Market Square, plus 2 spaces still marked as disabled from the former square layout, to an effective total of 14 marked blue badge spaces. 8 blue badge spaces are being relocated to the south side of the square along Market Place. These will be permanent spaces and marked as such. This was the fullest number possible to fit into the design.

The 3 blue badge spaces along the High Street outside the Post Office are being retained and slightly widened to make them more useable, plus all existing loading bays, and the taxi rank on Market Place, are also being retained.

To facilitate these improvements, as well as safety improvements for the pedestrian crossing, will result in the loss of the two spaces opposite, but as with the Market Square these will be re-provided in HDC off-street car parks to ensure there is no loss of spaces in St Neots.

The Market Square previously only had 4 blue badge spaces, until the short-stay parking was suspended during COVID-19.

How many blue badge spaces are within a short distance of the High Street?

To address the temporary reduction in the number of blue badge spaces in St Neots whilst the works are being carried out, we have increased the number of blue badge spaces in our off-street car parks by 16 spaces.

In addition to blue badge spaces on the public highways, HDC off-street car parks currently have marked blue badge spaces as follows:

  • Priory Lane West - 12 spaces (increase of 10 spaces)

  • Priory Centre - 2 spaces

  • Waitrose Car Park - 4 spaces

  • Tebbutts Road - 8 spaces (increase of 2 spaces)

  • Riverside Car Park - 6 spaces

  • Tan Yard - 8 spaces (increase of 4 spaces)

Will St Neots have a net reduction in blue badge spaces?

No. We recognise the importance of providing ample blue badge parking, and we do not intend there to be any reduction of spaces as a result of the improvement works, either temporarily during construction works or permanently once they are finished.

Previously there were 14 marked disabled spaces on the Market Square - 12 official ones, plus 2 still marked from the former layout. Another 2 spaces opposite the Post Office will also be removed as there is insufficient carriageway width to bring these up to the required standards. These 16 lost spaces have been reallocated to Priory Lane, Tebbutts Road and Tan Yard car parks during the works. Once the works are complete, there will be 8 disabled spaces beside the Market Square again, and we intend to retain some of the relocated spaces permanently to ensure there is no reduction in blue badge spaces in St Neots town centre.

We are continually assessing the use of the relocated spaces to determine which are most useful and inform the decision on which spaces will be retained once the project is complete, considering feedback from the user community.

Blue badge holders are also able to use other areas to park as well, such as on double yellow lines (so long as they don't cause an obstruction).

The improvement works will also make St Neots town centre more accessible. On the Market Square a number of kerbs, bollards and other obstacles will be removed, and uneven surfaces which currently pose a hazard will be replaced. Pavements and crossings are being repaired and upgraded throughout the town centre, with some pavement widening as well. A new signalised pedestrian crossing is also being built on the High Street at the Huntingdon Street junction, allowing direct crossing at the side of the junction where this is not currently possible without a longer detour or using an uncontrolled crossing instead.

Accessibility improvements will make transiting from car parks around the town centre to the High Street and Market Square itself much easier than it is at present too.

We are also helping business owners to improve the accessibility of their premises through our Shop Front Grant Scheme, where eligible businesses can apply for up to £10,000 to cover front of building refurbishment costs.

What are the proposals for the Priory Centre?

We are at the early stage of scoping a potential refurbishment of the Centre.

Who owns the Priory Centre?

The Priory Centre is owned by St Neots Town Council, it is not owned by HDC.

What is proposed for the Centre?

We are currently looking at very high-level options for the Centre. These include making the best use of its location on the riverside.

Is there any funding for the Priory Centre?

Yes, we received FHSF for the Centre and this is being supported with Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding.

What are the proposals for the Quarter?

We, as part of our place planning role, are looking into Master Plans across market towns. Exploration of proposals for the Priory Quarter are in the early feasibility stage.

Is there any funding to deliver works in the Quarter?

Yes, for feasibility only. There is no funding to support any works in the Quarter past feasibility.

Why was St Neots selected for application to the Future High Street Fund?

The government invited bids for Future High Street Funding from unitary authorities, metropolitan districts, London boroughs and, where there is a two-tier system, from district councils, in England. The funding guidance stipulated that the government would only accept bids covering town centre areas facing significant challenges.

Huntingdonshire District Council could have submitted an application for any of its market towns, but selected St Neots as it was felt that it was the town which needed the investment and would benefit most from the fund.

Other factors taken into consideration included St Neots' growing population, the town's connectivity and challenges facing the town centre including the declining footfall and the challenge of competing with online shopping.

How is Huntingdonshire District Council involved in the Future High Street Fund?

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities' Future High Street Fund Call for Projects invited "bids from unitary authorities, metropolitan districts, London boroughs and, where there is a two-tier system, from district councils, in England".

Having been successful in our application for funding, we will now act as the accountable body - this means that we are responsible for the legal and financial management of the grant.

We are also responsible for ensuring the projects are delivered to time and budget, achieve value for money and meet the requirements of the Future High Street Fund grant.

Huntingdonshire District Council, as the accountable body, holds the responsibility, but to develop and deliver the projects we will collaborate with a range of stakeholders and partners, including St Neots Town Council, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and statutory organisations such as the Environment Agency and Historic England.

What is the Future High Street Fund?

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities' Future High Streets Fund is a £675 million fund to help local areas respond to and adapt to the challenges and changes facing their High Streets.

The fund serves two purposes, "it will support local areas to prepare long-term strategies for their high streets and town centres, including funding a new High Streets Taskforce to provide expertise and hands-on support to local areas.

It will also then co-fund with local areas projects including:

  • investment in physical infrastructure, including improving public and other transport access, improving flow and circulation within a town/city centre, congestion-relieving infrastructure, other investment in physical infrastructure needed to support new housing and workspace development and existing local communities, and the regeneration of heritage high streets; and

  • investment in land assembly, including to support the densification of residential and workspace around high streets in place of under-used retail units."

You can find out more on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities' website and the full prospectus for the fund is also available online.

Why should I take part in community engagement? Haven’t the decisions already been made?

Engaging with the community and stakeholders is an important part of the investment in St Neots and we will be talking to people throughout the length of the project.

Whilst decisions have been made about the projects that funding will be used for, we still need to hear from local people about their aspirations for the town and what outcomes they would like to see each of the projects deliver.

Community engagement will help shape and inform decisions around the projects alongside best practice, learning from other markets towns and the strategy for the future of St Neots.